He is passionate about culture, people and cats. He is Ai Weiwei — the most provocative, contemporary artist not only famous in China but he’s also known around the world. His art was catapulted into the eyes of the world with his vision of the stunning Bird’s Nest Stadium built as the centre piece for the Beijing Olympics.
Even though his art is highly regarded, Ai is currently under constant surveillance by the Chinese government and unable to leave the country since 2011 when his passport was taken away. However, his following is incredible and Twitter is his voice. To get a better understanding of this artist, you should watch the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Mongrel Media).
The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is currently featuring his work in the latest exhibition, Ai Weiwei: According to What? It’s truly worth experiencing. The artist is known for his large scale installations and detailed artwork which are both presented in this exhibition. This show, the only stop on Canadian soil, is a fascinating look not just in his works of art but also what is important in life and freedom of expression.
There are 40+ works of art included in this exhibition featuring sculptures, photography, video and audio installations.Much of China’s historical and cultural richness is felt with the installations. Included is a cluster of wooden stools form the Qing Dynasty that have been joined together in the titled piece GRAPES. Another feature is more than 3000 porcelain crabs each painstakingly painted and displayed on the floor of the Gallery called HE XIE. A remarkable display of giant sized wooden MOON CHEST pieces are precisely placed in sequence that when peering through one end to the other representing the lunar cycle. There are seven MOON CHESTS on display at the AGO – Ai Weiwei created eighty-one in the series. There is also a moving and haunting tribute to honour the 5000 children who tragically died in the 2008 earthquake in China’s Sichuan province. The earthquake marked a watershed moment for Ai’s artistic practice and activism.
There are several events and public outdoor displays that are happening as part of this exhibition . On September 5th, Ai Weiwei will beam in to the Gallery for a live video chat with the AGO’s Director and CEO, Matthew Teitelbaum, as part of the popular 1st Thursdays art party (Note: this is a 19+ evening event visit www.ago.net/firstthursdays for details). “This live chat is an incredible and rare opportunity to hear Weiwei directly share his insights into his art, activism and passion for China and its changing landscape,” said Matthew Teitelbaum.
“Weiwei’s physical absence is deeply felt, but technology allows him to defy borders so we can welcome him personally to Toronto.” – Matthew Teitelbaum.
A series of talks, discussions and special events around Ai Weiwei and the changing landscape of contemporary art in China. There will also be a special screening of the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry on September 18th. Visit www.ago.net for more details.
During the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche (October 5) a new edition of his FOREVER BICYCLES sculpture will be installed at Nathan Phillips Square. This complex and abstract sculpture will consist of 3,144 bicycle (curated by Ami Barak). Currently at Nathan Phillips Square are sculptures by Ai Weiwei titled Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads and is located in the public fountain.
The exhibition at the AGO was organized by the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and the Art Gallery of Ontario. It is curated y the Mori Art Museum’s chief curator, Mami Kataoka.
If you want to take in the full experience of Ai Weiwei’s exhibition be sure to also pop into AGO’s acclaimed restaurant FRANK. The Chinese-themed menu inspired by Ai Weiwei and designed by executive chef Jeff Dueck and chef de cuisine Jay Tanuwidjaja. Tanuwidjaja visited Ai Weiwei in his Beijing Studio to consult on the menu which includes special three-course, prix-fixe menu options and a dim sum bar menu, as well as Peking duck. Prix-fixe dinner and exhibition packages are available for $65.
Families with small children should check out the AGO’s Family Creativity Lounge in the Margaret & Jim Fleck Gallery as well as the Weston Family Learning Centre. The Dr. Mariano Elia Hands-On Centre is open to the AGO’s youngest visitors daily.
Tickets for the Ai Weiwei: According to What? exhibition is timed-entry available in person or online. You amy also be interested in the upcoming David Bowie Is exhibition starting on September 25th at the AGO. Combo packages are worth looking into.
The Ai Weiwei: According to What? exhibition is at the Art Gallery of Ontario until October 27, 2013. For more information visit www.ago.net/aiweiwei
If you’re not familiar with Ai Weiwei you should check out the documentary Ai Weiwei : Never Sorry before seeing the exhibition. Here is the trailer…