Ai Weiwei

3 March - 24 June 2012
work in collection

Ai Weiwei (Beijing, 1957) has to a rare degree alternated in his practice between traditional physical artworks, conceptual projects, social activities, design and architecture. This has given his oeuvre the character of a compass that registers the currents of the age in art globally, and stimulates discussions of the role of art in his native China.

Ai Weiwei expresses himself in a distinctive, simple formal idiom, in a dialogue with factual history and personal memory. His art relates to the universal human condition and insists on respect for the individual.

By using traditional Chinese materials and craftsmanship as well as modern industrial technology, Ai Weiwei’s works not only reflect and thematize the main currents of the twentieth century – its dreams and monuments; at the same time they attempt, like all living art, to leave a mark in the eternally flowing present.

The exhibition, co-organized with the Louisiana Museum in Denmark, will include large, striking works: Forever, 2003, Fountain of Light, 2007, Trees, 2009-2010 and Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, 2010, as well as a number of films.

Forever, the earliest work in the exhibition, has connections back to the artist’s fascination with the father-figure of conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp. 42 bicycles of the ‘Forever’ brand, the favourite means of transport of the Chinese for decades, have been ingeniously stacked in a cylindrical tower, a ‘cycle’ that goes nowhere, since all the handlebars and pedals have been removed.

Fountain of Light is a shining seven-metre tall crystal tower. The work refers to the Russian architect Vladimir Tatlin’s (1885-1953) never-finished tower, created for the Third International in 1919 during the Russian Civil War.Trees, consists of trunks and branches slotted together from individual pieces of Chinese camphorwood. Individually they stand there without growing, but in the assembled form they unfold impressively and transform dead matter into a metaphor of growth and life. Next to the trees there are two 'rock formations', Rocks, independent works in porcelain, forming an overall installation that challenges the viewer’s idea of the archetypical Chinese.

The exhibition also includes a selection of Ai Weiwei’s films in the documentary genre, showing how the artist works as an activist.

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