Coronation (2020) (film)
“Coronation” (2020) is a documentary film about the lockdown in Wuhan, China, during the Covid-19 outbreak in the spring of 2020.
On December 31, 2019, the first novel coronavirus case was confirmed in Wuhan. Chinese officials repeatedly denied that human-to-human transmission was possible, concealed the number of diagnosed patients, and punished medical staff for disclosing information about the epidemic. On January 23, 2019, Wuhan was placed under a city-wide lockdown. Covid-19 has become a global pandemic, with over 17 million people infected and over 670,000 deaths.
“Coronation” examines the political specter of Chinese state control from the first to the last day of the Wuhan lockdown. The film records the state’s brutally efficient, militarized response to control the virus. Sprawling emergency field hospitals were erected in a matter of days, 40,000 medical workers were bused in from all over China, and the city’s residents were sealed into their homes.
The film takes us into the heart of these temporary hospitals and ICU wards, showing the entire process of diagnosis and treatment. Patients and their families are interviewed, reflecting their thinking about the pandemic and expressing anger and confusion over the states’ callous restriction of their liberties. The film also takes us into the private lives of individuals living under the lockdown: a couple attempt to return to their home in Wuhan, a courier delivers essentials to residents barred from leaving their community, an emergency construction worker stuck in limbo and forced to live out of his car, a former party cadre and her son debate the function of the media and the party’s response to the outbreak, a grieving son navigates the bureaucracy of retrieving his father's ashes.
China has assumed the status of superpower on the global stage, yet it remains poorly understood by other nations. Through the lens of the pandemic, “Coronation” clearly depicts the Chinese crisis management and social control machine—through surveillance, ideological brainwashing, and brute determination to control every aspect of society. The film shows the changes that took place in a city and in individual space under the impact of the virus; it illustrates the value of individual life in the political environment, reflecting on the difficulties we face as individuals and countries in the context of globalization. Ultimately, the result is a society lacking trust, transparency, and respect for humanity. Despite the impressive scale and speed of the Wuhan lockdown, we face a more existential question: can civilization survive without humanity? Can nations rely on one another without transparency or trust?
Ai Weiwei directed, produced, and completed post-production remotely in Europe. The filming was done by ordinary citizens living in Wuhan.
Ai Weiwei Films
A Conversation with Ai Weiwei (talk)
SQUARE, University of St. Gallen
30 January 2023, 7 – 8:30 pm (CET)
On Monday, 30 January 2023, the organisation SQUARE will host an in conversation event with Ai Weiwei alongside art market expert Laura Noll and Square director Philippe Narval to discuss his his thought-provoking, socially conscious artwork, and provide insight into his ideas on how art and activism can shape politics and business.Following the discussion attendees will have the opportunity to meet with and speak to Ai Weiwei.
Ai Weiwei, Ernesto Neto
E.A.T. / Engadin Art Talks (talk)
27–29 January 2023
Ai Weiwei and Ernesto Neto will participate in the 2023 Engadin Art Talks (E.A.T.), a three-day programme which takes place from 27 to 29 January 2023. Presenting a selection of international thought leaders, the event encourages a deeper understanding of hope as an intrinsically human state of mind and as a fundamental driving force, through this year’s theme: HOFFNUNG? HOFFNUNG! (HOPE? HOPE!). Ai Weiwei will speak on questions of activism and advocacy, while Ernesto Neto will consider the influence of spirituality, humanism, and ecology on art.
Ai Weiwei will be in conversation with art collector Uli Sigg, moderated by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, from 12:15 – 13:00 on Saturday, 28 January 2023.
Ernesto Neto will be in conversation with Maja Hoffmann, Founder and President of the Luma Foundation, from 11:30 – 12:00 on Sunday, 29 January 2023.
Ego vici mvndvm (installation)
Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
14 January – 18 June 2023
Ai Weiwei’s new LEGO work, Untitled (Saint George slaying the dragon), is now on view in the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. Commissioned for the altar of the Benedictine cloister’s conclave chapel, the project reimagines Vittore Carpaccio’s renowned sixteenth century altarpiece Saint George Killing the Dragon, which is usually housed in the chapel but is out on loan until June 2023. Constructed entirely of LEGO bricks, Ai Weiwei’s replacement communicates with the historical and spiritual context in which it is temporarily inserted, drawing a dialogue between the Benedictine tradition and contemporary art.
The project takes as its title a quote from the Gospel of John inscribed along the frieze of the Chapel: Ego vici mvndvm (In this world you have troubles, but take heart: I have overcome the world!) 16,33. The artist thus establishes a link with the biblical episode represented, a paradigm of a definitive victory of Good over Evil, which can also be considered as an emblem of political and social activism in defence of human rights – a central tenet of the artist’s practice.
Ai Weiwei, Richard Prince
From Here, For Now (group show)
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
5 November 2022 – 12 February 2023
From Here, For Now presents works by Australian and international artists from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, exploring interrelated themes that are relevant to our current moment. Connecting Australia’s outback as a signifier of national identity with American stereotypes of outsiders, and hidden histories, the exhibition touches on selfhood, the human body, and questions of political urgency.
Art Gallery of NSW
Ai Weiwei receives the Praemium Imperiale Prize
We congratulate Ai Weiwei on being awarded the Praemium Imperiale Prize 2022 by the Japan Art Association.
Praemium Imperiale Prize
Ai Weiwei et al.
Talk Art: Ai Weiwei Live at Kite Festival (podcast)
In the latest episode of Talk Art, recorded live at Kite Festival, Oxfordshire on 12th June 2022, artist Ai Weiwei speaks to gallerist Robert Diament.
La Commedia Umana – Memento Mori (solo show)
Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
28 August – 27 November 2022
In collaboration with the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore – Benedicti Claustra Onlus, Berengo Studio and Fondazione Berengo, Ai Weiwei will present an array of never before seen glass sculptures as part of a new solo exhibition at the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. Alongside the presentation of works in porcelain, wood, and LEGO, the centrepiece of the exhibition is La Commedia Umana, an enormous hanging sculpture comprised of over 2,000 pieces of black glass handcrafted by the maestros of Berengo Studio in Murano. Measuring more than six metres wide and almost nine metres high, the twisted monument is the largest hanging sculpture ever made in Murano glass in living history. The work is an ‘attempt to talk about death in order to celebrate life’, the artist explains.
Ai Weiwei et al.
Forest: Wake this Ground (group show)
9 July – 2 October, 2022
Ai Weiwei's monumental work Palace, from Roots series, 2019, is featured in a group exhibition at the Arnolfini, Bristol, which brings together artists, writers, filmmakers and composers from across the globe. Titled Forest: Wake this Ground, the exhibition presents works that recycle, reuse and repurpose resources, revealing the forests’ ancient rhythms, as well as exploring stories, myths, and folktales, passed down between people over centuries.
Cast from the ancient and endangered Pequi Vinagreiro tree (found in the Bahian rainforest), Ai Weiwei’s upended sculpture reflect both the uprootedness of arboreal species and the displacement of people.
Arc, 2017, installed in Stockholm in collaboration with Brilliant Minds (temporary installation)
Ai Weiwei's iconic Arch, 2017, has been installed outside the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm as part of the Brilliant Minds foundation’s public art series in the Swedish capital. The monumental, 40ft tall cage sculpture was first shown in Washington Square Park, New York in 2017.
Ai Weiwei additionally features among the speakers at the annual Brilliant Minds forum later this year.
Ai Weiwei et al.
Air (group show)
Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City
16 July – 11 December 2022
Work by Ai Weiwei is included in the group presentation Air at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City. Acquired by the museum earlier this year, the work The Way Follows Nature, 2021 will be on view at the museum until 11 December, 2022.
A brush with... Ai Weiwei (podcast)
In the final episode from the eighth series of the podcast "A brush with...", Ai Weiwei talks to The Art Newspaper about his cultural experiences and greatest influences, from Marcel Duchamp to ancient Chinese ceramics – and why Romanticism is not for him.
Listen to the podcast here.
The Art Newspaper
In Search of Humanity (solo show)
Albertina Modern, Vienna
16 March – 4 September 2022
The Albertina Modern presents the first comprehensive museum exhibition in Vienna dedicated to Ai Weiwei, an outstanding artistic voice of our time, a ceaseless activist, a proud critic of authoritarian systems and a truthful poet. In Search of Humanity extensively examines the aspect of humanity and artistic responsibility within Ai Weiwei’s oeuvre.
The exhibition highlights concepts such as: surveillance, censorship, human rights, freedom of expression, human displacement, radical responsibility, the power of beauty and the truth of poetry. Guided through these lines of thought the exhibition offers new tools to understand the relevance of Ai Weiwei’s artistic language, which comprises a wide array of art historical paradigms (such as the readymade) alongside more radical activist strategies, all of which are devoted to fathom the extremes of the contemporary human condition on a global scale. An impressive selection of works from the artist’s over three-decade career shall shed a light on Ai Weiwei as a preeminent figure within the contemporary art world.
A catalogue has been published to accompany this exhibition. Get your copy here.
Intertwine. Pequi Tree, Roots, and Human Figures (solo show)
Serralves Museum, Porto
23 July 2021 – 9 July 2022
At Serralves Ai Weiwei presents a body of work that reflects his interest in the environment and his concerns regarding the deforestation of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Ai’s sculptures represent what remains of once green giants and are referents for the present consequences of the rapacious conversion of the natural environment. As we contemplate these roots, we understand the value of forests, the lungs of the world that provide the oxygen we need to breathe. To preserve these rapidly dwindling resources is a critical issue for the future of people on Earth. In the Serralves Park we will see for the first time Pequi Tree, a 32-meter-high iron tree that stands witness to the disappearance of the harmonious co-existence between human beings and nature; moulded in Brazil, cast in China, and now installed in the Park, this work went from wood to metal and from mortal to eternal as a piece of evidence and a monument.
1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows. A Memoir (publication)
In his widely anticipated memoir, Ai Weiwei tells a century-long epic tale of China through the story of his own extraordinary life and the legacy of his father, Ai Qing, the nation’s most celebrated poet. At once ambitious and intimate, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows offers a deep understanding of the myriad forces that have shaped modern China, and serves as a timely reminder of the urgent need to protect freedom of expression.
Get your copy here.
Ai Weiwei, Jeff Elrod, Thomas Struth et al.
Connecting Currents: Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts (group show)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
21 November 2020 – Summer 2022
Works by Ai Weiwei, Jeff Elrod and Thomas Struth are included in the group exhibition Connecting Currents: Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, on view in the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building in the institution until summer 2022.
The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building is dedicated to the Museum’s international collections of modern and contemporary art. The soaring spaces feature displays that span media encompassing painting and sculpture, craft and design, video, and immersive installations. The third-floor galleries are devoted to thematic exhibitions, and the Kinder Building opens with Connecting Currents—five inaugural installations of art from the 1960s onward.
Museum of Fine Arts