About the Exhibition
Featuring over 30 works spanning more than 20 years, Ai Weiwei: According to What? explores universal topics of culture, history, politics, and tradition.
A major retrospective of the artist’s work, this not-to-be-missed exhibition includes examples from the broad spectrum of the artist’s practice, which encompasses sculpture, photography, video, and site-specific architectural installations as well as the design for the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics in China.
Ai is known as one of China’s most provocative and vocal artists; his focus on human rights and social change eventually led to his detainment by Chinese authorities for nearly three months in 2011. The Chinese government later supplied charges of tax evasion against Ai, which he vehemently denies. Since his detainment, Ai has been kept under constant surveillance by the government—a circumstance that has led him to create a series of new works, including a marble surveillance camera, that will be part of this exhibition.
Ai Weiwei: According to What? also includes a new sculpture made from steel rebar that was salvaged from schools that collapsed during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The piece points to the inferior construction that caused the government-built schools to collapse while other buildings remained unscathed. Straight (2008–2012) is a powerful indictment of the Chinese government and a monumental reminder of the many young people who died in the earthquake.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art is one of only five venues, including the Smithsonian’s Hirshorn Museum, on the North American tour of this exhibition, which is organized by the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Visitors to the exhibition will be able to dig deeper into the artist’s biography and his artistic practice through iPads installed in the galleries. Outlining the key events in Ai’s life and the main themes around which his art revolves, users will be able to gain a better understanding of the artist and his path to where he is today. In addition, visitors will have access to interviews with Ai in which he speaks about his art, his activism, and his recent experiences with Chinese authorities. These in-gallery tools will provide greater context for the works on display and aid in the visitor’s understanding of the artist’s intent.
Authors: Kerry Brougher, Mami Kataoka and Charles Merewether