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
Arch, 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.
The Liberty of Doubt (solo show)
Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge, Cambridge
12 February – 19 June 2022
Kettle’s Yard is pleased to announce a new solo exhibition by internationally renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (b. 1957, Beijing) in which new and existing work will be shown alongside historic Chinese objects. The exhibition will explore notions of truth, authenticity and value, as well as globalisation, the coronavirus pandemic and the current geopolitical crisis. Ai Weiwei will reflect upon the liberty in the West, in contrast to China and other authoritarian regimes, to question truth and authority, express doubt and seek transparency in political matters. However, in relation to art appreciation, the Chinese have a long tradition of a more fluid and less fixed view in relation to authenticity than is the case in the West, often valuing the act of copying.
The exhibition in the galleries is a single installation with 13 artworks by Ai Weiwei exhibited alongside 14 antiquities which the artist bought at an auction in Cambridge in 2020. This will be the first time the artist has juxtaposed historic Chinese objects with his own works. Some of the auction pieces acquired by the artist are thought to date from the Northern Wei (386 – 534 CE) and Tang (618 – 907 CE) dynasties, while others have been identified as counterfeits, later copies of original works. A number of recent films made by the artist will also be screened on each day of the exhibition’s run – Coronation (2020), Cockroach (2020) and Human Flow (2017) – while two Fairytale Chairs (2007) will be placed in the Kettle’s Yard House for visitors to use.
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
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