Ai Weiwei. In Search of Humanity

Until 4 September 2022

Ai Weiwei | Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio © Foto: Gao Yuan
Ai Weiwei | Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio © Foto: Gao Yuan

Ai Weiwei is one of the most important artists of our time, a tireless activist and critic of authoritarian systems.

The ALBERTINA MODERN is now presenting his most comprehensive retrospective to date. In Search of Humanity deals in depth with the aspects of humanity and artistic commentary in the work of Ai Weiwei. His earliest works were already characterized by an examination of his native China, where he experienced the effects of the Cultural Revolution as a child through the exile of his father, the great poet Ai Qing. As a young man in New York’s East Village in the 1980s, he witnessed and documented the protest movements there.

Video: Ai Weiwei. In Search of Humanity | Virtual Opening
Exhibtion view | Photos © Sandro E. E. Zanzinger – 8 Images

Back in Beijing, it was the immediate aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre to which he responded artistically. His outstretched middle finger, which he held up to well-known buildings as representative objects of power, thus denouncing injustices, ultimately became his trademark. Time and again, the artist addresses power structures and the mechanisms of exercising power, be it the destruction of cultural heritage as an expression of one’s own superiority or the exercise of manipulation, censorship, and surveillance by the state.

He unrelentingly takes a closer look wherever he sees freedom of expression and human rights in danger—from the Chinese government’s methods of intimidation and the threats to journalists and political activists to the protests in Hong Kong, the massive restrictions in Wuhan during the outbreak of the corona pandemic, and even his own detainment in 2011.

Ai regards the current situation of refugees around the world as perhaps the greatest global humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, and as an enormous challenge for us as a solidary society—and he sees each and every one of us as having a responsibility to take action.

The exhibition is on view ath the ALBERTINA MODERN from 16 March until 4 September 2022.

Video: Ai Weiwei sneaks into the Albertina Modern to give an exclusive preview of his most comprehensive retrospective to date
Exhibtion view | Photos © Sandro E. E. Zanzinger
Exhibtion view | Photos © Sandro E. E. Zanzinger

Discover the exhibition catalogue!

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Exhibtion view | Photos © Sandro E. E. Zanzinger
Exhibtion view | Photos © Sandro E. E. Zanzinger
Ai Weiwei: FUCK, 2000

Ai Weiwei | FUCK, 2000 | Private Collection | Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl und Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Illumination, 2019

Ai Weiwei | Illumination, 2019 | Courtesy of the artist | Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Study of Perspective – Eiffel Tower, 1999

Ai Weiwei | Study of Perspective – Eiffel Tower, 1999 | The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna – The ESSL Collection | Photo: Mischa Nawrata © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Forever Bicycles, 2003

Ai Weiwei | Forever Bicycles, 2003 | Private Collection | Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl & Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Marble Sofa, 2011

Ai Weiwei | Marble Sofa, 2011 | Private Collection | Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl & Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Map of China, 2004

Ai Weiwei | Map of China, 2004 | Private Collection | Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl & Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: S.A.C.R.E.D. (i) S upper, 2013

Ai Weiwei | S.A.C.R.E.D. (i) S upper, 2013 | Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery | Photo: Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio and Lisson Gallery © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Handcuffs, 2012

Ai Weiwei | Handcuffs, 2012 | Private Collection | Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl & Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Assange‘s Treadmill, 2017

Ai Weiwei | Assange‘s Treadmill, 2017 | Private Collection | Photo: Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: A Metal Door with Bullet Holes, 2015

Ai Weiwei | A Metal Door with Bullet Holes, 2015 | Courtesy of the artist | Photo: Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Crystal Ball, 2017

Ai Weiwei | Crystal Ball, 2017 | Courtesy of the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin | Photo: Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (Gold), 2010

Ai Weiwei | Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (Gold), 2010 | Private Collection | Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl & Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995

Ai Weiwei | Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995 | Private Collection | Photo: Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Surveillance Camera with Plinth, 2015

Ai Weiwei | Surveillance Camera with Plinth, 2015 | Private Collection | Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl & Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Odyssey, 2017

Ai Weiwei | Odyssey, 2017 | Courtesy of the artist | Photo: Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio

Ai Weiwei: Zodiac (Dragon), 2019

Ai Weiwei | Zodiac (Dragon), 2019 | Private Collection | Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl & Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Grapes, 2011

Ai Weiwei | Grapes, 2011 | Private Collection | Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl & Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Forge (Detail), 2008-2012

Ai Weiwei | Forge (Detail), 2008-2012 | Private Collection | Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl & Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Feet (Buddha), 2003

Ai Weiwei | Feet (Buddha), 2003 | Private Collection, Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl & Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Neolithic Vase with Coca-Cola Logo, 1994

Ai Weiwei | Neolithic Vase with Coca-Cola Logo, 1994 | Private Collection | Photo: The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna / Lisa Rastl & Reiner Riedler © 2022 Ai Weiwei

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