The COVID-19 pandemic has led contemporary art galleries to seek new ways to present art online. In a year when “Online Viewing Room” has become part of the vocabulary of art, it is clear that galleries need to do more to communicate digitally. However, it has become more important than ever that art must be experienced in person.

Bologna-based gallery P420 did not initiate an online viewing room during the first lockdown, but they have now used the digital space to bring to fruition a project dedicated to the discovery of emerging artists. It is a parallel program of the gallery, apart from the main program, that had been in the works for some time, and is called P4202.

Shafei Xia, Welcome to my show, Installation view, Courtesy P420, Bologna

P4202 opens on December 1st as a hybrid exhibition platform. “Derived from an apt quote by the philosopher Luciano Floridi, we define it as on-life,” explain Fabrizio Padovani and Alessandro Pasotti, the gallery founders. “We have always felt the need to have a parallel space to show emerging artists, but we thought it didn't make sense to open a new space in Bologna, so we never did. The lockdown made us think a lot and, in the end, we realized that we had to create it, so our project room is virtual while the artworks are of course real.”

Differing from other online viewing rooms, P4202 presents the works as they were installed in an actual space, which allows them to present the works as they were installed and not only as images. Also, the focus on other artists who are not in the gallery program makes it interesting as a new space to view new art.

Fabrizio Padovani and Alessandro Pasotti note that “The intention of P4202 is to break down the barriers between virtual and real while we are in a period when the enjoyment of art can be defined as intra-media and fluid, fluctuating between visits to real galleries and social networks, exhibitions and websites, online fairs and newsletters. It is a democratic space, that can be visited by everyone and from everywhere in the world in the same way, a space that is the result of technology, but with a low technological content, because the focus is on the artists and the works, which can also be seen in real life in the gallery.”

The inaugural exhibition at the P4202 space is Welcome to My Show, the Chinese artist Shafei Xia’s first solo exhibition. The artist shows eight new paintings on sandalwood wrapped paper, made especially for this occasion. Shafei Xia graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna two months ago with a thesis entitled Il mondo è il circo (The World is a Circus), after Federico Fellini’s philosophy that Life is a circus

Shafei Xia, Welcome to my show, 2020, Watercolor on sandal paper mounted on canvas, cm 95x145, Courtesy the artist & P420, Bologna (photo Carlo Favero)

"The main theme of Shafei’s works is love experienced as desire, jealousy, and violence, represented explicitly or symbolically depending on the situation, but still omnipresent " notes Maura Pozzati in a text for the exhibition "." So the Shafei circus is filled with various figures, undressed acrobats, lovers, tigers, cheetahs, and all kinds of animals. And all this is told with delicacy in the treatment of faces, in the representation of the environments, in the expression of naked bodies, movements and poses.

Shafei Xia was born in ShaoXing in China in 1989. After obtaining a bachelor's degree in scenography at ChongQing University, in 2013 she turned down a secure job in her city and moved to Shanghai where, after selling her first work, she says she "felt the taste of freedom in the air." Shafei Xia then moved to Bologna and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 2020. In 2019 she won the Zucchelli Foundation for Art talent award.

Shafei Xia, Welcome to my show, 2020, Watercolor on sandal paper mounted on canvas, cm.95x145, detail, Courtesy the artist & P420, Bologna (photo Carlo Favero)

Visit the exhibition: http://www.p420.it/en/mostre/Welcome-to-my-show