An Exhibition by Ai Weiwei

It’s been a while since I wrote something here but I just didn’t get around to writing much these days. When we were in London we went to the Lisson Gallery and saw a great exhibition by a Chinese artist called Ai Weiwei. The exhibition had a great impact on me and it was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 in Beijing where he lives and works. He positions himself in and out of his Beijing studio as a cultural arbiter. Compelled by a sense of social conscience, his artistic practice extends across many roles, from filmmaker and photographer, to writer, publisher, curator and architect. As an heir to Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, yet digging deep into Chinese heritage, he moves freely between a variety of formal languages, reflecting on contemporary geopolitics. He is one of the leading cultural figures of his generation and consistently displays great courage in placing himself at risk to affect social change through his art. He serves as an example for legitimate social criticism and free expression both in China and internationally. His rebelliousness left Ai under house arrest in Beijing three years ago.

This solo exhibition was named Forever and is about Ai’s life as it was before and currently is in Beijing. 

SONY DSCSONY DSCAi’s groupings of stainless-steel bikes refer to the famous ‘Forever’ brand of bicycles that have been mass-manufactured in Shanghai since 1940. The use of pushbikes on Beijing streets are now steadily dying out, to be replaced by smog-emitting cars on clogged highways and six-lane ring roads. These bikes are part of an ongoing series. The Forever exhibition was made in memory of Yang Jia, a man from Beijing  executed in Shanghai in 2008. Mr. Yang had been arrested in 2007 for driving an unlicensed bicycle, after which he made allegations of police brutality. He was subsequently charged with the revenge killing of six officers. But his closed trial caused a sensation and many in China’s internet community defended Mr. Yang and celebrated him as a hero who had rebelled against police corruption. A story that made quite the impression on me.
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These armchairs are marble replicas of the armchair that Ai’s father used to sit in. I love the structure and the folds they have. At first I even thought for a second that they were inflatables.

SONY DSCThis ghostly, carved-marble gas mask relates to the perpetual pollution experienced in the Chinese capital city.

SONY DSCSONY DSCThis serie of photo’s consists out of Ai sticking up the his middle finger at a range of famous places and buildings like Tiananmen Square, the Eiffel Tower and the White House. It really shows the rebellious side of Ai and the way he uses art to make statements about political matters.

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