If you went to Gubei this Tuesday evening you would have seen something quite out of the ordinary: A hundred and nine paintings by a hundred and nine Israeli artists for auction, with all the proceeds going to children with special needs right here in Shanghai.
Matter of Color is a collective of Israeli artists, who wanted to display their artwork in Shanghai and help raise money for Chinese children with special needs. The lead, number one sponsor of the exhibit was A.L. group, a manufacturer of filters which has been in China for over 15 years. The founder and Chairman of AL Group, Ehud Aloni is one of the artists. Focusing on abstract styles and using a variety of media, the emotions and passions of modern Israel were brought powerfully to life on the walls of the Jade Tea Art Center, located on the bustling Gubei pedestrian walkway.
“I start with colours and an idea and who knows where I will stop?” said artist Karni Horan. “When I work in the Matter of Colour group I am carried away by the light and the people working around me.”
Malka Bignitz, a fellow artist, agrees. “I come in from work and don’t even put on new clothes, just an overall. It’s great work in here, everyone sees something. They are so open-minded.”
The show, generously hosted by Yaping Zhao, was not only a great fundraiser, but also a powerful reminder of the ever-growing links between Israel and China. Previous director of the Innovative Learning Center, ELG’s full-time alternative education program, Merav Wirthiem, was delighted to introduce the evening and introduced all the speakers. She said, “I had the idea to raise funds for XiErSen through the auction, but nowhere to put it on. The moment Andrew heard about it he got things moving. I’m so enthused about XiErSen. We don’t know everything yet, but we are doing something really special.”
We were privileged to have the Israeli Consul General, Arnon Perlman, speak during the evening. He was keen to put the exhibition in a historical perspective. “During the second world war Shanghai was a friend to over 20,000 Jewish refugees. I see this exhibition as another brick in the relationship between China and Israel.” Later he shared more on the subject.
“If you look today you will see a great partnership between China and Israel. Not one of assistance but of a deeper and better friendship of two similar peoples helping each other to grow economically.” He was also delighted to see such an event in Shanghai. “It’s a real surprise, I feel almost emotional. It’s not every day you see such charity in China.”
This event was also the first ever fundraiser for XiErSen Hope Forest Center. Its mission is to improve the condition of special education in China, which it plans to do by informing and raising special education awareness across China, advocacy to the Chinese government, direct services to children and a day care centre to help take the strain from parents. Andrew Hill, one of the directors, shared his excitement.
“The generosity of Amon, Merav, and Ehud is stunning. When I told people about this exhibition, they were amazed that so many great pieces are put up for auction for the charity. There was so much work in getting the art to China, getting it through customs that was done in the background. This was no small effort by the entire team at AL Group!” He also talked about his feelings on starting the NGO. “It’s thrilling, but also intimidating. We want to make a big change in China regarding special education on a macro level, which is a huge responsibility. I know how important this is.”
We were also blessed with a number of brilliant volunteers. Yoav, 16, stressed the importance of volunteer work. “I teach English every Sunday, but nothing like this. I think XiErSen is a great organisation. It’s good, it’s good, it’s good.” Sophie, also 16, agreed. “I love to help out, it’s really important that we do something. I find it really rewarding. Also, I love impressionist art, so I think the pieces are really beautiful.”
The evening was a huge success, raising around 200,000rmb for XiErSen, a wonderful start for their important work. Monte Rosen, Managing Director of ELG, was overjoyed at how the event turned out. “Not only was the art beautiful but it also reflected the hearts of everyone who came to the auction. ELG is looking forward to supporting and working with XiErSen to improve the lives of children with special needs across all of China.”