18 May 2019 00:00 - 01 September 2019 00:00
Ai Weiwei in conversation with Susanne Gaensheimer (in English)
“Everything is art. Everything is politics”: with these words, Ai Weiwei, the internationally celebrated contemporary artist, sums up his creative credo. His motto also supplies the leitmotif of this major exhibition at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, which focuses on the interdependency between political commitment and artistic production in Ai Weiwei’s career.
The exhibition features large-scale installations from the past 10 years and will be on view in both buildings of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, the K20 and the K21, from May 18 until September 1, 2019.
With his criticisms of the Chinese government, and as a dissident who has faced continuing persecution, Ai Weiwei is often regarded as a political artist-activist—one who has been preoccupied in recent works with mass migration as an instance of human crisis.
“As an activist, he is an artist, and as an artist, he is an activist. With this expanded conception of art, within which political and artistic action become inseparable, Ai Weiwei is undoubtedly close to the ideas of Joseph Beuys. This makes the upcoming exhibition so important—particularly here in Düsseldorf,” explains Susanne Gaensheimer, Director of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.
This exhibition is the major survey of the last decade of Ai Weiwei’s art practice. It addresses key themes of his work, from the early 1980ies until today, including the refugee crisis and individuality vs. the state. Ai Weiwei's works are made with humanity in mind, whether it be the Sichuan earthquake, the global refugee crisis, or issues of free speech and expression.
The focus at the K21 is on works on the theme of migration as a global humanitarian crisis: Laundromat (2016) consists of articles of clothing abandoned by the former residents of a refugee camp at Idomeni and then collected, cleaned, and mended by Ai Weiwei. Life Cycle (2018), a monumental boat with more than 100 over-life-sized bamboo figures, is a haunting evocation of the life-threatening passage of so many refugees across the Mediterranean. Seen for the first time together in an exhibition and in their complete forms in the large exhibition halls of the K20 are the two pivotal works: Straight (2008-2012) and Sunflower Seeds (2010).
Ai Weiwei, who was born in Beijing in 1957, has been acclaimed worldwide as an artist, architect, curator, film director, and photographer. The son of the famous poet Ai Qing, he grew up during his father’s exile in northern China, and returned to Beijing with his family in 1976. The impressions of Conceptual and Pop Art gathered during his time in New York in the 1980s proved fruitful for his working approach, based on a critical examination of cultural history and societal developments in China as well as globally.
Curators: Susanne Gaensheimer, Doris Krystof and Falk Wolf
More info: www.kunstsammlung.de
Ai WeiweiKunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K20 Grabbeplatz + K21 Ständehaus
Grabbeplatz 5 + Ständehausstr. 1
40213 + 40217 Düsseldorf