Tomorrow, 3rd April 2014, a spectacular new exhibition opens at Gropius-Bau museum: “Ai Weiwei – Evidence”. Ai Weiwei is arguably the most famous Chinese contemporary artist of the last decade – or rather, he is famous in the US and Europe. In his home country Ai Weiwei’s work has never been officially exhibited and the dissident artist is under constant surveillance by the government. In 2011 he was placed under house arrest and incarcerated.
Unsurprisingly Ai Wewei’s art is strongly political. Some of the exhibits in “Evidence” reflect on his personal life (“Handcuffs” or “Hangers”), others deal with issues concerning Chinese politics and society – like “Sichuan Earthquake Works”, a series of art works rooted in the terrible 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province which killed almost 70.000 people, including many school children.
Several exhibits tackle the subject of China’s relation with other countries – like “Diaoyu Islands”, a miniaturised marble replica of the tiny archipelago in the East China Sea which has caused a bitter territorial dispute between Japan and China, or “Circle of Animals”, a series of bronze sculptures depicting the heads of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.
“Evidence” – which was two years in the making – is the biggest Ai Weiwei exhibition ever and occupies some 3000 sq m on the ground floor of Gropius-Bau. Most of the art works were created especially for the museum and this exhibition, including the two spectacular installations (“Stools” and “Very Yao”) in the lobby and the Lichthof of the museum.
“Very Yao” is constructed of 150 bikes (Yao is a bike brand which apparently is very popular in China) which form a gigantic colum that is suspended from the ceiling. And “Stools” covers the entire floor of the Lichthof – the installation comprises some 6000 wooden stools that Ai Weiwei collected in different Northern Chinese villages. Many of these wooden stools date back to the Qing and even Ming dynasties (i.e. some go back to the 16th and 17th century!) and the effect is astounding – from a few steps away it really looks like an uneven wooden floor. Check out the pics!
There is a replica of Ai Weiwei’s cell when he was incarcerated in 2011, surveillance cameras modelled in marble and jade replicas of the handcuffs the artist wore whilst he was was interrogated in prison. The exhibition also features video installations depicting the streets of Beijing, antique wooden chairs and furniture from the Ming dynasty which Ai Weiwei stripped and sanded down so they look like new, vases from the Han dynastly covered in car lacquer (beautiful!), “Souvenir from Shanghai”, an installation constructed from the rubble of the artist’s Shanghai atelier which was torn down by the Chinese authorities and “The Crab House”, a floor covered with a pile of porcellain river crabs.
The exhibition will run until 7th July 2014. Be prepared for long queues outside of the museum: “Evidence” is one of the most heatedly anticipated art exhibitions of 2014 and for fans of Ai Weiwei or indeed most contemporary art fans, this is required viewing. The opening press conference this morning was jam-packed with journalists (including me) and I bet the official vernissage tonight was very crowded indeeed. More information is available on the museum’s website.