Trace at Hirshhorn (solo show)
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
28 June 2017 - 1 January 2018
One of China’s most provocative living artists, Ai Weiwei (b. Beijing, 1957) has spent nearly four decades exploring the relationships between art, society, and individual experience. His work, as prolific as it is eclectic, encompasses a wide range of media, including sculpture, installation, photography, film, painting, and architecture. Ai Weiwei began seeking to incite change through his art in the late 1970s, and as his work has developed, he has become increasingly committed to his guiding principle of promoting human rights and freedom of expression for all.
Ai Weiwei’s monumental installation Trace portrays individuals from around the world whom the artist and various human rights groups consider to be activists, prisoners of conscience, and advocates of free speech. Each of these 176 portraits comprises thousands of plastic LEGO® bricks, assembled by hand and laid out on the floor. The work foregrounds Ai Weiwei’s own experiences of incarceration, interrogation, and surveillance. In 2011, he was detained by the Chinese government for eighty-one days and then prohibited from traveling abroad until 2015. In 2012, the Hirshhorn opened Ai’s first major US retrospective, Ai Weiwei: According to What?, which he was unable to attend.
Originally commissioned in 2014, Trace first opened as part of @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, a site-specific takeover of the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco, a collaboration between the nonprofit FOR-SITE Foundation, the National Park Service and the Golden Gate Park Conservancy.
Like Ai Weiwei, the individuals represented in Trace have been detained, exiled, or have sought political asylum because of their actions, beliefs, or affiliations. The subjects were chosen by Ai Weiwei and reflect his response to information provided by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, as well as his own independent research.
As part of this installation, Ai Weiwei has created a new 360-degree wallpaper installation entitled The Plain Version of the Animal That Looks Like a Llama but Is Really an Alpaca. At first glance, the pattern looks merely decorative, but a closer inspection reveals surveillance cameras, handcuffs, and Twitter bird logos, which allude to Ai Weiwei’s tweets challenging authority. Together, the massive works span nearly 700 feet around the Hirshhorn’s third floor Outer Ring galleries.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
Life Cycle (solo show)
Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles
28 September 2018 - 3 March 2019
Marciano Art Foundation is pleased to announce the next MAF Project in the Theater Gallery, a solo exhibition of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, on view at the Foundation from September 28, 2018 — March 3, 2019. This exhibition is the artist’s first major institutional exhibition in Los Angeles and will feature the new and unseen work Life Cycle (2018) – a sculptural response to the global refugee crisis. The exhibition will also present iconic installations Sunflower Seeds (2010) and Spouts (2015) within the Foundation’s Theater Gallery.
On view for the first time in the Black Box, Life Cycle (2018) references the artist’s 2017 monumental sculpture Law of the Journey, Ai’s response to the global refugee crisis that used inflatable black PVC rubber in the shape of makeshift boats used to reach Europe. In this new iteration, Life Cycle depicts an inflatable boat through the traditional Chinese language of kite-making, exchanging the PVC rubber for bamboo. Ai first engaged with the traditional medium in 2014 in the installation With Wind created for the @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz exhibition in San Francisco, and this piece represents the artist’s further embrace of this ancient Chinese craft.
Suspended around the boat installation, the artist will exhibit a selection of figures crafted from bamboo and silk. In 2015, Ai Weiwei began creating a series of figures based on mythic creatures from the Shanhaijing, or Classic of Mountains and Seas. The Shanhaijing is a classic text made up of a compilation of mythic geography and myth, and versions of the text have existed since the 4th century B.C. The works are crafted in Weifang, a Chinese city in Shandong province with a tradition of kite-making dating back to the Ming dynasty.
Surrounding the parameters of the Black Box hangs Windows (2015) a reference to Chinese mythology, the tales and illustrations of the Shanhaiing, the history of 20th century art, and the life and works of the artist. The vignettes feature a dense mix of biographical, mythological, and art historical references to craft a contemporary story. Similar to chapters in a book, or acts in a play, the various scenes include the mythological creatures of the Shanhaijing alongside bamboo parallels of Ai’s own works, such as Template and Bang, and homages to Marcel Duchamp and Jasper Johns. A central theme running through the ten vignettes is freedom of speech and Ai’s efforts in defending it. Motifs recurring in Ai’s practice—the bicycle, the alpaca, symbols of state surveillance and control—are repeated and multiplied.
This multifaceted installation is evocative of Ai’s ongoing engagement with politics and social justice, and follows the release of his feature film Human Flow (2017) in which he depicts the refugee crisis on film. In the artist’s op-ed for the Guardian in February 2018, he writes, “I was a child refugee. I know how it feels to live in a camp, robbed of my humanity. Refugees must be seen as an essential part of our shared humanity.”
Placing Ai Weiwei at the forefront of the public contemporary art discussion, the installation Sunflower Seeds (2010), comprised of unique seeds made by 1600 artisans in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, will be presented in the Foundation’s Theater Gallery and will act to position Ai as one of the most recognizable artists of our time. This installation further expands upon reoccurring themes, such as authenticity, the individual’s role in society, geopolitics of cultural and economic exchange. The work also brings to mind the propaganda posters of the Cultural Revolution, depicting Mao Zedong as the sun and the citizens as sunflowers turning towards him.
Spouts (2015) is presented alongside Sunflower Seeds in the Theater Gallery, a piece comprised of thousands of antique teapot spouts dating back to the Song dynasty (960 – 1279). Following Ai’s practice of repetition and multiplication, the spouts may be seen as a metaphor for a mass of mouths, and a widespread yearning for freedom of speech and its continuing restriction throughout many societies. Spouts was previously exhibited in Galleria Continua in Beijing, the 21er Haus in Vienna, and the Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul. The installation at the Marciano Foundation will be the first time the complete work is exhibited.
Ai Weiwei: Life Cycle will be accompanied by an illustrated publication, the third in MAF’s Project Series featuring an essay written by mythologist, writer, and professor Martin Shaw.
Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles
Fan-Tan (solo show)
20 June – 12 November 2018
The Mucem is hosting Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, one of the major actors on the international art scene. The work of the photographer, architect, sculptor, performer, film-maker and social network activist combines Chinese thought with contemporary art, namely drawing his inspiration from Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. His creations are able to challenge our societies with such force through his transformation of everyday objects into works of art.
Ai Weiwei is the son of Ai Qing (1910-1996), the famous Chinese poet who discovered the West in 1929 on disembarking at Marseille, on the docks of La Joliette, precisely the spot where the Mucem is located today.
This connection motivated the artist to take us on a voyage through time and his art, which he links back to his paternal lineage. Through the new resonances that emerge in this exhibition, we are able to view Ai Weiwei’s work in a new light.
His creations, placed in parallel with the collections at the Mucem, invite us to question opposing notions such as East and West, original and copy, art and craft, destruction and conservation. But above all, the artwork of Ai Weiwei also challenges the relevance of our own interpretations.
Ai Weiwei (solo show)
Various locations, The Contemporary Austin, Austin
3 June 2017 - ongoing
The Contemporary Austin and Waller Creek Conservancy announce an upcoming two-part outdoor exhibition of large-scale installations by Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, to go on view to the public beginning June 3, 2017, as part of The Contemporary Austin’s partnership with Waller Creek Conservancy and its Museum Without Walls program. The project is made possible by the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation and represents the second collaboration between The Contemporary Austin and Waller Creek Conservancy.
The works include the striking installation Forever Bicycles, 2014, installed by The Contemporary Austin at the Waller Delta (74 Trinity Street, Austin, Texas), and Iron Tree Trunk, 2015, on view at The Contemporary Austin’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria (3809 West 35th Street, Austin, Texas). The public opening for both works by Ai Weiwei will be celebrated with free family-friendly art activities and refreshments on Saturday, June 3 from 10 a.m. to noon at the sculpture Forever Bicycles at the Waller Delta. Both works will remain on view as long-term loans.
The Contemporary Austin, Austin