Ai Weiwei was once the favoured artist of the authorities in China. That changed when Ai spoke out about perceived corruption which the current regime allows. Now a new show in Italy features his work of stacked bikes.
Ai Weiwei's works of art and installations always have a meaning. On the surface they may just be, as in this case, a huge stack of bicycles, but there is significance. It is up to the observer to decide what that significance is. Laughing Squid reports, "Stacked” by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is an installation of 760 bicycles arranged into a monolithic structure. The installation is part of an Ai Weiwei solo exhibition at Galleria Continua in San Gimignano, Italy, through February 16, 2013."
Galleria Continua press release begins, Galleria Continua is pleased to present, for the first time in its San Gimignano gallery space, a solo show by Ai Weiwei. The exhibition features sculptures, installations, videos and photographs. Recent works, some previously unshown and others on display for the first time in Italy, offer viewers an opportunity to learn more about one of the most important figures in contemporary culture, emphasizing the versatility of the artist and the cornerstones of his art: deferential respect for the Chinese tradition, combined with a great ability to project himself into modernity and an unflagging social and political awareness.
Ai Wewei, once a well respected artist in China, fell from grace when he spoke out against the authorities. At the height of his 'popularity' in China he was awarded a prestigious assignment to design the 2008 Chinese Olympic Games stadium. The finished stadium resembled a giant bird's nest and the nickname stuck.
Ai Weiwei has become a controversial figure, but for much more than his art.
In 2008 a devastating earthquake struck the Sichuan Province of China. Around 5,000 children were killed when a poorly built school collapsed. The tragedy led to Ai speaking out about perceived corruption which had resulted in a shoddily built school.
Ai was moved to act. He visited the scene to investigate the tragedy. In his hotel room in Chengdu he was beaten by police. His injuries lingered and he went to Germany for further treatment. In China his art studio was demolished. The authorities cited incorrect building permits as the reason.
Returning to China Ai was now viewed very differently by the authorities. In 2010 he was placed under house arrest. A series of charges, including tax evasion, came during the following years.
In April 2011 Ai was arrested at Beijing airport and was held prisoner for two months. In October of that year Art Review named him number one in their annual Power 100 list, much to the disapproval of the Chinese authorities. The authorities maintained that the Art Review decision was purely politically motivated, not based on artistic talent. Ai Weiwei was, and remains, widely supported by the West.
Between 1981 to 1993 Ai lived in the USA. He returned to China when his father became ill. His artistic career continues in China and further afield.
Stacked is part of an exhibition at GALLERIA CONTINUA Via del Castello 11, San Gimignano (SI), Italia
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