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Ai Weiwei

Dangerous Art (group show)
Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa
11 November 2017 - 27 May 2018

Political changes in the Western world drove many democratic countries to a constant "state of emergency", which lead to an erosion of citizens' and institutions' rights. The new cluster of exhibitions revolves around artists' response to limitations placed on civil freedom, in Israel and worldwide. The various exhibitions relate to social issues such as the right of protest, women rights, rights of the LGBTQIA community, and the rights of refugees. Many artist use artistic activism as a strategy, and raise the question whether contemporary art has the power to function as an arena of political protest. This in contrast to the common view, according to which the revolutionary spirit is over and every form of criticism domed to undergo castrating censorship.

Today's art world, in Israel and worldwide, evinces an increased interest in the intersection of art and social activism. Known as artivism, this new form of expression aspires to blend art and activism in equal degree. Contemporary art criticism emphasizes the power of art to function as an arena for political protest. Artistic activism, a new phenomenon that has become a staple of our time, is different from the type of critical art that dominated modernist discourse in the 20th century.

Since the beginning of Modernism, artists have endeavored to tackle taboos in radical and groundbreaking ways. Avant-garde art set its sights on "the system": the form of government, the social structure, the distribution of capital, and issues of policing and control. High hopes were hung on the movement's potential to instigate revolution. The current cluster of exhibitions aspires to illustrate subversive artistic practices in a post-revolutionary time, devoid of any possibility for artistic-political protest. In our days, when every form of criticism is immediately negated and appropriated by capitalism, has art lost its power to critique? Or does art, more than ever, find itself in a position to challenge and threaten the political order?

Mostly, the works displayed in this cluster of exhibitions were meant not only to represent the struggle of the oppressed, but also to create a space for activist intervention. The works relate to social spaces in which neoliberalism takes great pride in extending the rights granted to various communities, such as women's rights, LGBTQIA rights, refugee rights, or the rights to protest and self-defense. However, the tolerance attributed to the spirit of liberalism is often of a cynical nature, used as a fig leaf to cover up the exacerbation of social inequality and denial of human rights. The artists featured in this cluster of exhibitions seek to liberate themselves of the ideological stronghold of the political hegemony and expose the unjust antagonism and violence it propagates. In this way, contemporary artists are able to take an active part in redefining the contemporary political discourse.

Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa


Additional:

Ai Weiwei

Everything is art. Everything is politics (solo show)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf
Mid-May - 1 September 2019


Ai Weiwei

Unbroken (solo show)
The Gardiner Museum, Toronto
28 February - 9 June 2019

Ai Weiwei is one of the world’s most influential living artists and human rights activists, known for smashing conventions—and pottery—with iconic works like Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995) that upend the cultural traditions and materials of his native China. While his work includes sculpture, installation, photography, film, performance, and architecture, ceramics occupies a singular place in his practice.

Ai Weiwei: Unbroken explores the breaking of boundaries, both physical and symbolic, and considers how the artist’s ceramic works form a basis for his ongoing exploration of social justice themes, including immigration and the repression of dissent.

The exhibition features some of Ai’s most celebrated works, displayed in Toronto for the first time, including Sunflower Seeds (2010) and Han Dynasty Urn with Coca Cola Logo (2015), as well as brand new work.

The Gardiner Museum, Toronto


Ai Weiwei

CHINESE WHISPERS: Recent Art from the Sigg Collection (group show)
MAK, Vienna
30 January - 26 May 2019

Ai Weiwei, Descending Light With a Missing Circle, 2017 © Studio Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei, Descending Light With a Missing Circle, 2017 © Studio Ai Weiwei

With CHINESE WHISPERS: Recent Art from the Sigg Collection a comprehensive exhibition on Chinese contemporary art is coming to Vienna. Uli Sigg has been following the development of contemporary art in China since the late 1970s. In the mid-1990s, he started putting together the world’s most significant and representative collection of Chinese art. A business journalist, entrepreneur, and Swiss ambassador to China, North Korea, and Mongolia (1995–1998), he had the chance to take a look behind the scenes of the social and economic developments dedicated to both tradition and the future, as China’s vision of a new Silk Road shows. Cultural and sociopolitical values form the frame of reference of the MAK exhibition. The museum creates a discursive platform by contrasting works from the Sigg Collection with objects from the MAK Collection. This interplay highlights China’s contemporary art production as well as its aesthetic or iconographic references. The historical object becomes a vision machine for the contemporary.

MAK, Vienna


Ai Weiwei

Life Cycle (solo show)
Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles
28 September 2018 - 3 March 2019

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds (detail), 2010 © Studio Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds (detail), 2010 © Studio Ai Weiwei

Marciano Art Foundation is pleased to announce the next MAF Project, a solo exhibition of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, on view from September 28, 2018 - March 3, 2019. This exhibition is Ai’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.

“We are honored and thrilled to be able to host Ai Weiwei’s first institutional presentation in Los Angeles says Maurice Marciano, founder of Marciano Art Foundation. "Ai Weiwei's long history as a thoughtful, engaged, and provocative artist falls directly in line with the goals of the Foundation. We are so thrilled to be a part of his big moment happening in our city this fall."

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, which used inflatable, black PVC rubber to depict the makeshift boats used to reach Europe. In this new iteration, Life Cycle depicts an inflatable boat through the technique used in traditional Chinese kite-making, exchanging the PVC rubber for bamboo.
Suspended around the boat installation are figures crafted from bamboo and silk. In 2015, Ai began creating these figures based on mythic creatures from the Shanhaijing, or Classic of Mountains and Seas. The classic Chinese text compiles mythic geography and myth; versions of the Shanhaijing have existed since the 4th century B.C. These works are crafted in Weifang, a Chinese city in Shandong province with a tradition of kite-making dating back to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

Windows (2015), which hangs along the perimeter of the Black Box, draws from Chinese mythology, the tales and illustrations of the Shanhaijing, 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 versions of Ai’s earlier 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 a continuation of Ai’s ongoing engagement with politics and social justice. It follows the release of his feature-length documentary, Human Flow (2017), which 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.”

In the Theater Gallery, Sunflower Seeds (2010), is composed of 49 tons of individual porcelain sunflower seeds made by 1600 artisans from an ancient porcelain production center in Jingdezhen, in China’s Jiangxi province. 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 toward him.

Spouts (2015) piles together thousands of antique teapot spouts dating as far back to the Song dynasty (960–1279). Following Ai’s practice of repetition and multiplication, Spouts can be seen as a metaphor for a mass of mouths, and a widespread yearning for freedom of speech despite 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. This is the first time the complete work is on view.

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



Ai Weiwei, Edmund de Waal

The Precious Clay (group show)
The Museum of Royal Worcester, Worcester
20 August 2018 – March 2019

Edmund de Waal, In Time II, 2017 © Edmund de Waal. Photo: Mike Bruce
Edmund de Waal, In Time II, 2017 © Edmund de Waal. Photo: Mike Bruce

Meadow Arts and the Museum of Royal Worcester present an exhibition exploring contemporary art and porcelain, The Precious Clay. The exhibition will examine why and how artists choose to use this legendary material in their practice. With its origins in the Far East and a long global history, porcelain holds rich associations of preciousness, mutability and exoticism: the artists’ work responds to these associations in lively and inventive ways.

The Museum of Royal Worcester, Worcester