Ai Weiwei. In Search of Humanity

From 16 March 2022

Ai Weiwei | Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995 | Images courtesy of the artist, Private Collection
Ai Weiwei | Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995 | Images courtesy of the artist, Private Collection

Ai Weiwei | Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995 | Images courtesy of the artist, Private Collection
Ai Weiwei | Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995 | Images courtesy of the artist, Private Collection

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. 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.

With Ai Weiwei’s cultural readymades, his wall works, sculptures, installations, photographs, and numerous films, the exhibition offers an impressive overview of the artist’s career spanning more than four decades and includes key works from all his creative phases.

Ai Weiwei | Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995 | Images courtesy of the artist, Private Collection
Ai Weiwei | Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995 | Images courtesy of the artist, Private Collection
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