Chinese Ai Weiwei opens art exhibition in adoptive Portugal
Exile Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei said the coronavirus pandemic, rather than slowing it down, spurred him on, as he prepared to open an exhibition of his art in Lisbon on Friday. “The pandemic period is tragic for the world… but for me personally, I have had a very productive time,” Ai, 63, said at a press conference.
The exhibition at the Cordoaria Nacional Exhibition Center in Lisbon brings together around 80 works by Ai, the artist once celebrated by Chinese authorities who helped design Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium. But the sculptor, photographer and filmmaker clashed with the state, especially when he criticized authorities for their handling of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, in which more than 87,000 people died.
He was held for 81 days in 2011 and eventually left for Germany four years later, eventually settling in Alentejo, southern Portugal, in 2019. Speaking in a preview of the show called “Rapture”, Ai said: “Welcome to my country, Portugal.” “I feel comfortable here,” Ai told AFP later. “It’s not always easy to describe.
Curator Marcello Dantas said the exhibition reveals two sides of Ai – “his cultural roots (and) the more militant side of his work.” The exhibition opens with one of Ai’s most monumental works, his installation “Forever Bicycles” made up of hundreds of identical bicycles. The visitor then discovers other emblematic works such as “Snake Ceiling” commemorating the children who died in school buildings during the Sichuan earthquake.
Another work, “Law of the Journey,” depicts an inflatable boat with dozens of refugees on board. The new works include an approximately 1.6m tall marble sculpture of a roll of toilet paper, a reference to the rush on basic need at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year. The show runs until November 28. – AFP