Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is among the most inspiring and influential cultural figures in the world today. His art exhibitions have recently shattered attendance records in London, Paris, Helsinki and San Francisco. At the same time, his voice has become prominent in the worldwide struggle for human rights.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is hosting a landmark exhibition of Weiwei’s work from January 27-August 20, 2017. Several iconic works from across the artist’s repertoire, as well as new work specific to Meijer Gardens, will be featured. This is Weiwei’s first show at a botanic garden, where he can convey his ideas through a dialogue with nature and natural elements. It’s also his first show in the Upper Midwest, so it’s a great privilege for Grand Rapids residents and visitors!
Learn more about the Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural, State.
Understanding the Importance of Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei in Context
Ai Weiwei is an artist overflowing with ideas, with concepts. There is much he wants to express regarding history and humanity, cultural and personal injustice, freedom of speech and human dignity. In fact, his ideas are so unique and important, he is most frequently viewed as a conceptual artist. To realize his concepts, he uses a broad and diverse array of objects that help convey his thinking. Ancient vessels or furniture become symbolic of Chinese history; the use of backpacks are stand-ins for children; traditionally crafted kites become symbols of freedom.
Ai Weiwei and China
Seemingly contrasting themes of tradition and modernity are critical to the work of Ai Weiwei. The Chinese-born artist and activist is internationally heralded as one of the most important cultural figures of our time. He champions free speech and global human rights through his sculpture, installations, film, photography—and his widely followed social media presence.
‘Iron Tree’ by Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei's Iron Tree, in the permanent collection at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, is the artist’s largest and most complex outdoor sculpture to date. Standing at more than 22 feet tall, and measuring more than 22 feet wide, this sculpture is composed of 99 unique iron pieces cast from individual tree elements from southern China. Held together with oversize stainless steel bolts, Iron Tree appears as a living tree in form, but upon closer examination, the diversity of shapes, exaggeration of reality and awkwardness of the bolts create a much different image.