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Shoppers line up as Shanghai mall shows them the Monets

SHANGHAI -- Hundreds of Chinese art lovers lined up at a Shanghai shopping mall Saturday to see the works of French Impressionist Claude Monet, as the country's biggest ever exhibition of his paintings opened.

The 40 Monet works drawn from the private Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris are arranged in chronological order and include some from his emblematic “Water Lilies” series.

Organizers hope between 200,000 and 300,000 people will view the three-month show, but will limit daily visitors to 3,000 over security concerns.

“I've heard a lot about Monet's works, and I couldn't wait to see them with my own eyes,” said visitor Regina Luo.

The exhibition is being mounted in the basement of Shanghai's K11 Art Mall, a collection of designer boutiques and coffee shops interspersed with displays of art.

Monet, who died in 1926, was one of the founders of Impressionism, and his giant “Water Lilies” paintings are some of the most distinctive works of the 20th century.

“K11 is located in the heart of the city, close to the people, and we wanted to reach people who traditionally don't visit museums,” said the Marmottan museum's assistant director Marianne Mathieu.

“We wanted to bring the paintings to the people, and not ask them to go out of the city to see paintings.”

The canvases on display represent around half the Marmottan museum's Monets, according to organizers.

The show is linked to a series of events aimed at marking the 50th anniversary this year of diplomatic ties between France and China.

Monet's paintings have previously been exhibited in mainland China, notably in a 2004 survey of Impressionist artists, but the Shanghai show is the first solely dedicated to his work, organizers said.

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A member of the staff films before the opening to the public of China's largest-ever show of works by French artist Claude Monet in Shanghai on Saturday, March 8. (AFP)

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