Ai Weiwei

Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads (solo show)
Bayfront Gardens, The Ringling, Sarasota, FL
9 June 2017 - 1 June 2018

Ai Weiwei, Zodiac Heads, Installation view in New York, 2011
Ai Weiwei, Zodiac Heads, Installation view in New York, 2011

The Ringling is pleased to announce the presentation of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s 12 monumental bronze sculptures, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.  A sculptor, photographer, installation artist, architect, and social activist, Ai is one of the most renowned artists working today.

Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads was inspired by the fabled fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan, an 18th-century imperial retreat just outside Beijing. Designed in the 18th century by two European Jesuits at the behest of the Manchu Emperor Qianlong, the fountain-clock featured the animals of the Chinese zodiac, each spouting water at two hour intervals. In 1860, the Yuanming Yuan was ransacked by French and British troops, and the heads were pillaged.

Seven out of the 12 animal heads in Ai’s piece are based on the original fountain works that have been discovered—rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, horse, monkey, and boar. The remaining five are the artist’s reimagining of the currently missing artifacts—dragon, snake, goat, rooster, and dog. The dual title of the work addresses the artist’s desire that the piece be relatable on many different levels and to people who may not know the original sculpture’s history.

In re-interpreting these objects on an oversized scale, Ai Weiwei focuses attention on questions of looting and repatriation, while extending his ongoing exploration of the 'fake' and the copy in relation to the original. He states that each piece is “a copy of an original, but not an exact copy—something that has its own sensitive layer of languages, which are different, and that bears the mark of our time.”

The 12 bronze Zodiac Heads stand on bronze columns. Each animal head measures approximately 4 feet high and 3 feet wide. The animal heads on their columns reach between 9.8 and 12 feet high, with each one weighing approximately 800 lbs. This group of works, (including a smaller copy in gold) has been exhibited worldwide since the official launch of the Zodiac Heads in 2011, making it one of the most viewed sculpture projects in the history of contemporary art.

The Ringling, Sarasota


Ai Weiwei

21st Biennale of Sydney (group show)
Various locations, Sydney
16 March - 11 June 2018

“The curatorial premise of the 21st Biennale of Sydney is an exhibition that will explore multiple viewpoints in search of a state of equilibrium. With a holistic view, the Biennale will also seek in-depth engagement with individuals and communities while exploring a range of perspectives and meanings of abstractions.

“The exhibition will be a journey; a walk through microcosms of the world today based on the stratum of history, human knowledge, emotions, desires and beliefs, as well as the mysteries of natural phenomena and the whole of the universe.”

21st Biennale of Sydney

Ai Weiwei

Natural State (solo show)
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI
27 January - 20 August 2017

This landmark exhibition, presented by the Daniel & Pamella DeVos Foundation, will feature internationally renowned artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Opening on January 27, 2017, Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State is his first show in the upper Midwest as well as the first of its kind for the artist at a botanical garden or sculpture park. Ai Weiwei has emerged as one of the definitive cultural voices of the 21st century. Known to work in a wide variety of contexts and scale, his ability to transform materials to share his ideas, concerns and vision has given rise to a critically acclaimed and widely appreciated body of work. Iconic among recent work is his colossal Iron Tree, acquired and installed in 2015 in honor of Meijer Gardens' 20th anniversary.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Ai Weiwei

#AiWeiwei (solo show)
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago
13 April - 2 July 2017

Known as one of the world’s most provocative artists, Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957) creates work that boldly confronts contemporary political and social issues, both in China and abroad. As an outspoken human rights activist, writer and curator, Ai’s practice crosses multiple disciplines including sculpture, public works, film, music, poetry, photography and social media. #AiWeiwei is an exhibition specifically designed for the Museum of Contemporary Photography that focuses on Ai’s early diaristic photographs from the 1980s and 90s in New York and Beijing along with a series of recent social media based installations that center on what Ai refers to as photo activism. Ai’s fame drives over half a million visitors to his twitter and Instagram pages and he uses these tools, sometimes leveraging irony and humor, with disorienting effect, to bring attention to serious humanitarian issues and the constellation of state forces around them. The accompanying publication will feature an interview with Ai Weiwei by MoCP executive director Natasha Egan and texts by graphic designer and lecturer Liz McQuiston and independent curator John Tancock.

Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago

Ai Weiwei

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors (solo show)
Public Art Fund, Various locations, New York
12 October 2017 - 11 February 2018

Projected installation view, Courtesy Ai Weiwei
Projected installation view, Courtesy Ai Weiwei

This October, as a highlight of its 40th anniversary in 2017, Public Art Fund presents Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, a timely new exhibition across multiple boroughs by world-renowned artist Ai Weiwei. Inspired by the international migration crisis and tense sociopolitical battles surrounding the issue in the United States and worldwide, the artist has conceived of this ambitious, multi-site project as a way of transforming the metal wire security fence into a powerful artistic symbol. By installing fences in varying, site-specific forms at locations across the city – including sites like the New York City Economic Development Corporation-managed Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art on Astor Place, JCDecaux bus shelters in Brooklyn in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation, Doris C. Freedman Plaza at Central Park and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens both in partnership with NYC Parks, and numerous others throughout the city – Ai will create striking installations that draw attention to the role of the fence as both a physical manifestation and metaphorical expression of division. In this way, he will explore one of society’s most urgent issues, namely the psychic and physical barriers that divide us, which is at the heart of debates about immigration and refugees today.

Public Art Fund, New York

Ai Weiwei

Hansel & Gretel: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Ai Weiwei (group show)
Park Avenue Armory, New York
7 June - 6 August 2017

In a new commission that is both object and environment, Pritzker Prize-winning architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron with artist/activist Ai Weiwei explore the meaning of public space in our surveillance-laden world, referencing the story of Hansel and Gretel in which the children lose their way and feel a sense of menace in a space they know and trust. The artists take advantage of the vast openness of the Drill Hall, creating a 21st century public place in which the environment is disconcerting, the entrance is unexpected, and every movement is tracked and surveyed by drones and communicated to an unknown public.

The work builds on the artists’ shared practice as designers of form and investigation (the Beijing Olympic Stadium and “quite simply the best summer Serpentine Pavilion ever” according to Time Out London) and their deep interest in the public realm whether through activism or architecture. Ai Weiwei has described their collaborations as follows: “My experience of working with Jacques and Pierre is that we never think separately. It’s like three soldiers in the war—and that’s a good feeling: we have a constant understanding.”

Curated by Tom Eccles and Hans Ulrich Obrist

Park Avenue Armory

Ai Weiwei

Law of the Journey (solo show)
National Gallery Prague, Prague
17 March 2017 - 7 January 2018

Installation view. Courtesy the artist and National Gallery Prague
Installation view. Courtesy the artist and National Gallery Prague

The exhibition Law of the Journey is Ai Weiwei’s multi-layered, epic statement on the human condition: an artist’s expression of empathy and moral concern in the face of continuous, uncontrolled destruction and carnage. Hosted in a building of symbolic historical charge – a former 1928 Trade Fair Palace which in 1939–1941 served as an assembly point for Jews before their deportation to the concentration camp in Terezín – it works as a site-specific parable, a form of (public) speech, carrying a transgressive power of cathartic experience, but also a rhetoric of failure, paradox and resignation. Like Noah’s Ark, a monumental rubber boat is a contemporary vessel of forced exodus, floating hopelessly within the immense, oceanic abyss of the Gallery’s post-industrial, cathedral-like Big Hall. Set for a journey across the unknown and the infinite, an overcrowded life raft carries ‘the vanguard of their people’, as Hannah Arendt described the illegal and the stateless in her seminal 1943 essay, We Refugees: over 300 figures, squeezed within the confines of a temporary shelter, undertake a journey ‘far out into the unnavigated’, fleeing violence and danger.

National Gallery in Prague

Ai Weiwei

Mountains and Seas (solo show)
Château La Coste, Le Puy Ste Réparade
8 April - 17 June 2017

Installation View. Photograph: Wearecontent, Courtesy the artist and Château La Coste
Installation View. Photograph: Wearecontent, Courtesy the artist and Château La Coste

Over the past two years, Ai Weiwei has been developing a new permanent project for Château La Coste, entitled Ruyi Path after the ceremonial scepter that symbolizes power and good fortune in Chinese history. The organic form of the scepter has provided the plan for a new pathway that weaves between the trees of the forest at Château La Coste and connects two ancient routes on the property. Using cobbles salvaged from the recently renovated ports of Marseille, Ruyi Path has given a new life to these stones that so many have passed over on arrival in Europe. Defying categorization, this structure is both sculpture and architecture; traditional and modern.

To mark the completion of this project, Ai Weiwei is mounting an exhibition at Château La Coste that will provide a broader sense of the artist’s work and contextualize the Ruyi Path within his practice. The works to be exhibited are made using traditional kite-making techniques and employ a wide range of references to Chinese mythology and Ai Weiwei’s own life experiences. Created just before the summer of 2015, when Ai Weiwei’s passport was returned following his detention and subsequent four years of travel restrictions, the works draw from this turbulent period.

Château La Coste

Ai Weiwei, Edmund de Waal

Kneaded Knowledge - The Language of Ceramics (group show)
National Gallery, Prague
17 March - 27 August 2017

Edmund de Waal, I speak of nothing else, 2015
Edmund de Waal, I speak of nothing else, 2015

Together with the artists Ai Weiwei and Edmund de Waal, the National Gallery in Prague, focuses on a material long attributed to the realm of handicraft: ceramics. Unjustly so, as this material is founded upon millennia of knowledge and a history of art that was constantly recontextualised by contemporaries.

Some of the earliest artworks were ceramics. The modern age in Europe was characterised by an insatiable desire for Chinese porcelain, that would fetch top prices. Be they containers for everyday use or artworks – from time immemorial ceramics would travel the globe, uniting civilizations that knew only little of each other. Long regarded the world over as high art, this traditional medium had a tough time in the modern age, with ceramic art being put in second place as handicraft.

Today, we are increasingly being confronted with this material as the focus falls on recent Asian art and as artistic practice continues to open up. The exhibition Kneaded Knowledge takes a special look at the changes of a technologically conditioned medium that has challenged our ideas for long periods, from olden times to the modern age.

Two of the outstanding artists who devote great attention to this material, Ai Weiwei and Edmund de Waal, act as curatorial and artistic partners for the show. For Kneaded Knowledge they are joining Peter Pakesch to engage in a dialogue on the handling of ceramics across times and cultures. Their own works also feature in the exhibition – of course alongside prominent references and important historical material.

Works by Ai Weiwei, Edmund de Waal, Lynda Benglis, Alison Britton, Hans Coper, Lucio Fontana, Asger Jorn, Kazimir Malevich, Fausto Melotti, Joan Miró, Isamu Noguchi, Pablo Picasso, Lucie Rie, Marit Tingleff, Peter Voulkos and others

National Gallery, Prague 

Ai Weiwei

Luther and the Avantgarde (group show)
Altes Gefängnis, Wittenberg
19 May - 17 September 2017

Ai Weiwei, Man in a cube, 2017. Photo: Daniel Biskup.
Ai Weiwei, Man in a cube, 2017. Photo: Daniel Biskup.

International contemporary art meets the spiritual figure of Luther — this is the starting point for the exhibition Luther and the Avant-garde presented by the Stiftung für Kunst und Kultur (Foundation for Art and Culture), in cooperation with Reformationsjubiläum 2017 e.V. The exhibition will not focus on Martin Luther as a historic figure but as a visionary and avant-gardist of his era. The historic prison in Wittenberg will serve as a central exhibition venue and is being renovated and opened  to the public on the occasion of the exhibition.

The artists have been invited to address the inspiring ideas of the Reformation, which have not lost their currency today. The views of artists on subjects such as attitude, desire for change and responsibility play a central role. The exhibition will include works by i.a. Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Ólafur Elíasson, Ayşe Erkmen, Isa Genzken, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Günther Uecker, Ai Weiwei, Erwin Wurm, and Zhang Peili. Additional exhibition sites are the St. Matthäus Kirche in Berlin and the Karlskirche in Kassel, where art takes up residence in church buildings.

Stiftung für Kunst und Kultur e.V. Bonn