If summer was the season of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, then autumn definitely belongs to the controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. With various large-scale exhibitions scattered all over the world across the months of September to November, we bring you the best places to be checking out his politically-charged works!
Galerie Max Hetzler presents Ai Weiwei’s first solo exhibition at a galley in Paris. The exhibition features a selection of some of his works that use traditional materials or production methods in recognition of Chinese culture that had been banned during the cultural revolution. An example of this Treasure Box: a gigantic puzzle box that opens into a complex structure of compartments made from rosewood or huali. Part of a series of cubes made of ebony, crystal and compressed tea, Treasure Box references the politics of concealing and revealing.
‘#SafePassage’ is an exhibition by Ai that deals with the fate of the individual versus the overruling systems of society. In the recent years, ever since Ai became a political refugee who lives under constant surveillance by the Chinese government, the artist has become deeply involved in the refugee movement in Europe. In this exhibition, Ai covers the walls of Foam with thousands of mobile phone photographs he took of individuals he encountered in the Mediterranean.
Over the years, Ai has become known for his political activism and resistance against censorship. ‘Libero’ is a presentation of his newest and major works that spans the entirety of Palazzo Strozzi, and will feature key monumental installations, sculptures and objects, as well as videos and a photography series produced throughout his career. One of the most pronounced works is Reframe, an installation of 22 rubber lifeboats mounted over the renaissance palace’s windows, which aims to draw attention to the plight of refugees who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
AI WEIWEI translocation – transformation at 21er Haus, Belvedere, Vienna
One of the key focuses of ‘AI WEIWEI translocation – transformation’ is the idea of metamorphosis as a result of expulsion, migration, and deliberate change of location undergone by people and objects. Filling the middle of the 21er Haus's large exhibition hall is Wang Family Ancestral Hall, a 14m high wooden temple that has been taken out of its original location of Jiangxi in China and transported to Vienna and given a new context. The notion of transformation is one that continually pervades Ai’s work and life.
S.A.C.R.E.D. at the Cathedral, Cuenca, Spain
S.A.C.R.E.D. is a large-scale installation by Ai that reproduces scenes of his incarceration in almost life-sized dioramas encased in steel boxes, with peep-holes for visitors to peer through. Previously exhibited in Italy the installation is now on view at a cathedral in Spain. S.A.C.R.E.D. is part of a series of events entitled ‘The Poetry of Freedom’, that marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, who was held as a slave in Algiers for five years in the late 16th century, where he is thought to have conceived the idea for ‘Don Quixote’.
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