A major exhibition of the Chinese dissident artist and activist Ai Weiwei has been announced by the Museum of Cycladic Art (MCA) in Athens. Ai Weiwei at Cycladic (20 May – 30 Oct 2016) will be the artist’s first exhibition within an archeological museum and in the country of Greece. This exhibition will introduce audiences to his practice through many of his significant works, placing them within the museums renowned collection. Ai Weiwei will also unveil new works inspired by the permanent archeological collection of the museum.
The museum invited Ai Weiwei to exhibit a series of works that would explore his practice and the emphasis his work places on history and heritage, as well as his critical examination of current political and social issues. Ai Weiwei’s collaboration with the MCA begun in 2015 and following the Museum’s invitation, the artist visited Athens as well as the island of Lesbos. A number of new works will feature in Ai Weiwei at Cycladic, creating a true cross-cultural depiction of past, present and a universal hope for the future. 10% of all exhibition takings, merchandise sales and sponsorship funds will go directly to a number of hand selected NGOs working throughout Greece to help the refugee crisis.
The exhibition will explore his use of materials often associated with antiquity such as marble, as well as the craftsmanship and traditional techniques of wood. Through this he will create dialogue with ancient Cycladic art, giving poignancy to the display in an archeological museum. The 25 artworks on display will include celebrated works Grapes (2011), Divina Proportione (2012), Mask (2011), Cao (2014), as well as a new, unseen work inspired by the museum’s significant archeological collection.
Sandra Marinopoulos, President of the Museum of Cycladic Art says, “In the context of our contemporary art program we have long been keen on presenting Ai Weiwei’s work at the Museum of Cycladic Art. I am thrilled that we are able to host Ai Weiwei’s first ever exhibition in an archeological museum and introduce him to our Greek audience! His constant dialogue between the ancient and the new will be manifested through the creation of a new marble work inspired by our permanent collection.”
The Museum of Cycladic Art is dedicated to the study and promotion of ancient cultures of the Aegean and Cyprus, with special emphasis on Cycladic Art of the 3rd millennium BC. Apart from archaeology, the MCA has an ongoing contemporary art exhibition programme aiming to introduce the public to important 21st century artists. Michael Frahm, Exhibition Curator says “Ai’s work often looks to the past for its inspiration and as an artist he has often worked with materials that have deep cultural associations. This is why the Museum of Cycladic Art is the ideal location for his first exhibition in Greece. Their historic and important collection speaks to his appreciation of the past and his hope for the future. We are also delighted to be working with the museum to directly benefit the people Ai has encountered during his time in Lesbos.”
Born in Beijing in 1957, Ai Weiwei is one of the most significant and outspoken artists to emerge from China in recent decades. As an artist, architect, writer, filmmaker and political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights. He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, as well as the quality of human life in modern-day China. In 2011, following his arrest at Beijing Capital International Airport on 3 April, he was held for 81 days without any official charges being filed; officials alluded to their allegations of “economic crimes”. Upon his release, he was prohibited from traveling abroad, engaging in public speech, and was subjected to continued government surveillance. His passport was eventually returned to him in 2015.
Ai Weiwei is best known for his sculptures and large-scale installations, which conceptually marry traditional Chinese craft and modes of thought with contemporary political messages. In his sculptural works he often uses reclaimed materials such as ancient pottery, wood from destroyed temples, marble and jade, uniting past and present; the old China and the new. As well as engaging in many long-term research projects such as his ‘Citizens’ Investigation’ into the Sichuan Earthquake victims in 2008, Ai also served as artistic consultant on the design of the National “Bird’s Nest” Stadium for Beijing’s 2008 Olympics and has had major exhibitions and pavilions all around the world.