The Xubaizhai International Symposium and the three exhibitions of 20th century Chinese painting which begin today will be the first artistic event on this scale to be held in Hong Kong. The three-day symposium at the City Hall's Concert Hall will bring together 22 speakers of international standing. Simultaneous translation in Cantonese, Mandarin and English will be provided by Polyglot. The culture of Hong Kong is an extension of Chinese culture and, as the 20th century is drawing to a close, the Urban Council considered it was the right time for a retrospective look at Chinese painting over the last 100 years. The exhibitions, which provide a visual reference to the symposium, contain more than 200 works of art by 108 artists selected from 50 private and public collections, mainly in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. There are also a few items from the Xubaizhai Collection of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy which was donated to the Hong Kong Museum of Art in 1989 and which inspired the symposium and exhibitions. 'Most of the Xubaizhai Collection is 17th century art but we thought this was too exclusive for the general public, so we have started with works of the 20th century which require less background information', said Christina Chu, curator of the Xubaizhai Collection. 'The three exhibitions start today and cover different aspects of 20th century Chinese art. We want to use them to entice people to look back further to examine traditional works of art,' Dr Chu said. The first, 'Twentieth Century Chinese Painting : Tradition and Innovation', will end on January 14, 1996, and two exhibitions of works by Huang Binhong and Wu Guanzhong will end on March 17, 1996, and December 10 this year respectively. 'We chose these particular dates because spring and autumn are the best seasons in Hong Kong for exhibitions,' Dr Chu said. 'We also wanted to coincide with the Sotheby's and Christies' autumn auctions in Hong Kong as well as four major auctions in China, because we hope to attract more foreign visitors.' Dr Chu said that this event was the first of a series but, because exhibitions and symposia of this kind were expensive and labour-intensive, the Museum of Art would only be able to hold them every five years. 'Future topics will be more focused and will definitely include Chinese 17th century art. We want to take opportunities to borrow from other exhibitors to supplement the quantity and quality of our works of art. 'However, the logistics of borrowing from various institutions is very difficult and this event is an unprecedented venture of co-operation with commercial operations.' One problem that Dr Chu faced when setting up the exhibitions was that there are no great collections of 20th century Chinese art. 'There is only one real collection of note and that is owned by the China Art Gallery in Beijing.' One of the reasons for the shortage of 20th century Chinese art is that a lot of important works by present-day artists were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, although a lack of money has also limited the number of large collections. Generous help from 16 companies and individuals, who are either collectors themselves or support the arts, has helped defray the cost of staging the symposium and exhibitions. Mok Ying-fan, chairman of the Urban Council's Select Committee, said one of the council's aims was to promote art and culture. The symposium runs from 2 - 5 pm daily and from 9 am - 12 pm on Saturday and Sunday.