Ai Weiwei, Jeff Elrod, Joan Mitchell, Thomas Struth et al.
Inaugural Installations: Kinder Building (group show)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
21 November 2020 – 31 December 2021
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. It will open with the first comprehensive installation of these works, drawn from the collections of Latin American and Latino art; photography; prints and drawings; decorative arts, craft, and design; and modern and contemporary art.
These first installations in the Kinder Building are accompanied by eight major site-specific commissioned works that will be inaugurated at the time of the opening. Commissioned artists are El Anatsui, Byung Hoon Choi, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Ólafur Elíasson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Cristina Iglesias, Jason Salavon, and Ai Weiwei.
Museum of Fine Arts
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.
Thomas Struth et al.
Modern Times. Industrial Themes in Painting and Photography (group show)
Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg
26 June – 26 September 2021
From 26 June to 26 September 2021, the Bucerius Kunst Forum will present a large-scale exhibition devoted to the handling of industrial themes in painting and photography – an absolute first. Never before has artists’ engagement with the emergence and progress of industry and the resulting changes in the landscape and working world been examined by way of a dialogue between the two media.
Modern Times. Industrial Themes in Painting and Photography brings together about 30 paintings and some 170 photographs. Based on powerful images spanning a trajectory from the early days of industrialisation to the present day, and from Romanticism to contemporary photography, the show highlights how the artistic treatment of industrial themes has developed and changed over the past 175 years. Works by Thomas Struth are included.
Bucerius Kunst Forum
Thomas Struth et al.
Von Erde schöner. The collection of the MGKSiegen (group show)
Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Siegen
28 May 2021 – 13 February 2022
The new presentation of the museum’s collection, “Von Erde schöner” (Prettier from Earth), continues the dialogue between the Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection and the Contemporary Art Collection at MGKSiegen which began last year. The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Peter Piller’s photo series of the same name. The winner of the Rubens Promotional Award (2004) has developed his own fields of collection from a firm’s estate comprising 20,000 aerial photographs of German single-family homes. In a similar way, “Von Erde schöner” seeks connecting threads within our own collection, so highlighting a special interest in spatial themes.
The relations between natural and artificial landscapes, the relationships between people, architecture and places, and the construction of pictorial space play a role, as well as questions of distance, proximity and our personal perceptions of space. “Von Erde schöner” undertakes a cartography of the museum’s own collection. Works by Thomas Struth are included.
Rapture (solo show)
Cordoaria Nacional, Lisbon
4 June – 28 November 2021
Ai Weiwei, the contemporary artist and Chinese activist, comes to Portugal for the first time with an unprecedented exhibition: Rapture, to be held at Cordoaria Nacional.
Elected the most popular artist in the world in 2020 by The Art Newspaper, Ai Weiwei is recognized worldwide for his strong political engagement and for connecting art to social and human rights issues.
Curated by the Brazilian Marcello Dantas, the exhibition will present some of the artist's most iconic works, as well as original works produced in Portugal that explore revisited traditional techniques.
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.
Pre-Order it here.
Archive Matrix Assembly: The Photography of Thomas Struth 1978–2018 (publication)
Archive Matrix Assembly: The Photography of Thomas Struth 1978–2018 presents the first comprehensive, systematic theory of Thomas Struth’s main body of photographic work from its beginnings in the late 1970s until his most recent work in 2018. The book presents a unique, evolutionary understanding of the work, proposing that it has established three stages of production: archive, matrix, and assembly. Together the three stages form a developmental system that characterizes the individual photographs, their relation to their subject matter, and how they form larger, significant collections of images. The book project accomplishes three main goals: it develops a comprehensive critical reading of the work, it serves as a monograph of the artist, and it provides an extensive analysis of the photographs at all stages, including the less discussed, more recent photography, which is placed on par with the earlier work for which Struth first became internationally renowned.
Order a copy here.
Trace (solo show)
Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles
15 May – 1 August 2021
A moving depiction of courage in the face of authoritarianism, Ai Weiwei: Trace illuminates the power of resistance.
Created in 2014, when the famed contemporary artist was under house arrest, the monumental display portrays activists, prisoners of conscience, and advocates of free speech from around the world. On view at the Skirball are eighty-three of the work’s original 176 portraits, each one hand-assembled from thousands of LEGO® bricks. To Ai, the portraits pay tribute to “heroes of our time,” many of them ordinary citizens who have stood up against injustice in their communities.
Complementing the portraits is a striking wallpaper designed by Ai Weiwei entitled The Animal That Looks Like a Llama but Is Really an Alpaca. At first glance, the pattern looks merely decorative, but upon further inspection, you’ll discover hidden iconography like handcuffs and surveillance cameras. Look closely to find the alpacas—a mascot for freedom of expression in Chinese internet culture.
Skirball Cultural Center
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
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco: 4 September 2021 – 17 January 2022
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore: 6 March 2022 – 14 August 2022
This retrospective will explore the full arc of Joan Mitchell’s artistic practice, from her exceptional New York paintings in the early 1950s to the majestic, large-scale multi-panel works made in France later in her career. Co-organized with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition features rarely shown paintings and works on paper from public and private collections in the U.S. and Europe. The exhibition moves through focused suites of work, following Mitchell's cyclical way of working, in which subjects and gestures appear and resurface years later. A selection of projects created with and for writers like Frank O’Hara and Jacques Dupin will underscore the role of poetry in her life and work; others signal themes including her relationships with music and the artists of the 19th century. Additionally, the exhibition will feature transitional works that unfold her process and emphasize the role of Mitchell’s exquisite small paintings, pastels, and works on paper. An accompanying catalog will provide a sweeping scholarly account of the artist’s career.
Baltimore Museum of Art