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Friday, December 11, 2015

Weiwei and Warhol work their way with Melbourne

Ai Weiwei at National Gallery of Victoria exhibition Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, 11 December 2015 – 24 April 2016. Ai Weiwei artwork © Ai Weiwei. Photo: Tobias Titz
Ai Weiwei at National Gallery of Victoria exhibition Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, 11 December 2015 – 24 April 2016. Ai Weiwei artwork © Ai Weiwei. Photo: Tobias Titz
By Graeme Willingham
A 9-metre cube of 1500 connected stainless steel bicycles has taken residence in the forecourt at Melbourne’s National Gallery. It’s part of a new Melbourne-only exhibition which will attract thousands to the city through the summer, and up to April 24.

From what I saw at the launch and first day of showing, I can suggest with some confidence the Forever Bicycles 2015 structure will be the most photographed subject in Melbourne over that time.

It beckons images from multiple angles, and of course stands as a commanding shiny backdrop for signature selfies. Standby social media platforms ....

Forever Bicycles is an introductory piece to NGV’s summer blockbuster Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei.. It is stationed inside the gallery, but outside the exhibition halls, so can be viewed in the free public space of the gallery.

Inside the exhibition, more than 300 works explore the mutual conceptual interests of Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei. They include rare and never-seen-before works by Andy Warhol, new commissions by Ai Weiwei, immersive installations and a wide representation of painting, sculpture, film, photography, music, publishing and social media.

Andy Warhol created some of the most defining iconography of the late twentieth century, through his exploration of consumer society, fame and celebrity, media, advertising, politics and capital.. This exhibitions presents over 200 of Warhol’s most celebrated works including portraits, paintings and silkscreens such as Campbell’s Soup, Mao, Elvis, Three Marilyns, Flowers, Electric Chairs, Skulls and Myths series.

The exhibition has the largest display of Andy Warhol’s work to come to Melbourne

One of China’s most provocative artists, Ai Weiwei’s work encompasses visual art, architecture, cultural criticism, social media and activism. His work addresses some of the most critical global issues of the early twenty-first century, including the relationship between tradition and modernity, the role of the individual and the state, questions of human rights, and the value of freedom of expression.

No surprise then to discover the inside show-stopper is Letgo Room, 2015. One of the new commissions, Ai Weiwei unveiled it on Thursday.

Letgo Room incorporates more than two million plastic building blocks featuring portraits of twenty Australian activists, advocates and champions of human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of information and freedom of the internet. Portrait subjects include Julian Assange, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Peter Greste, Professor Gillian Triggs, Rosie Batty, The Hon Michael Kirby, Archie Roach, Julian Burnside and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, among others from the fields of international law and academia, social welfare, media, community activism in support of indigenous people, asylum seekers, sex workers and the gender non-specific, among other contexts

Each person supplied a quotation which is incorporated in the display, running on floor, ceiling and four walls. It is a fabulous, pertinent work. There’s an interesting story behind the title, Letgo Room.

At the opening function for gallery patrons on Thursday night, Ai Weiwei announced that he was gifting Letgo Room, 2015, to the National Gallery of Victoria.
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Overall, NGV says the exhibition explores parallels in the work of the artists, such as shared motifs in their work, their engagement with the readymade, the relationships between art, politics, economy and celebrity; and the documentation of contemporary society and everyday life.

Ai presents other new major installations here, developed especially for the exhibition, including floating works which will respond to Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds 1966 and Cow Wallpaper 1966. Colour and movement.. Gallery-goers can walk through the floating pieces. More photos, or videos!

Other commissions include a five metre-tall work from Ai’s chandelier series of crystal and light -- also in the gallery public foyer -- and Blossom, a spectacular new installation in the form of a bed of thousands of delicate white porcelain flowers.

NGV’s major world-first exhibition Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei has been developed by the NGV in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh and Ai Weiwei.

It is showing in Melbourne, until April 24.

See www.ngv.vic.gov.au

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