Pérez Art Museum Miami Opens With First Major Retrospective of Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: According to What? Will Feature Large-Scale Sculptures, Photographs, and Videos and New Site-Specific Installation Created Especially for PAMM’s New Building

MIAMI – December 1, 2013 – The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) will inaugurate its new Herzog & de Meuron-designed building with the first major retrospective of Ai Weiwei, one of China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artists. Spanning 20 years of his career, Ai Weiwei: According to What? demonstrates the artist’s broad artistic practice with over 30 large-scale works in a wide range of media, including sculpture, installation, photography, video, and audio. The exhibition will also feature a new site-specific installation composed of hundreds of bicycles, which Ai Weiwei created especially for PAMM’s opening. On view from December 4, 2013 through March 16, 2014, Ai Weiwei: According to What? encompasses works from all aspects of the artist’s oeuvre, from his play on notions of conceptual and minimal art, to his manipulation of traditional objects and ancient pottery in ways that question cultural values and political authority.   

“PAMM serves one of the most diverse and rapidly growing communities in the country. Ai Weiwei’s focus on cultural identity, human rights, and the impact of social and economic instability draws direct parallels to the experiences of many people living in Miami,” said Thom Collins, PAMM’s Director. “We chose to inaugurate our new building with this exhibition, because it speaks so directly to our vision of presenting and creating programming that will have a strong local resonance. We are actively participating in a cultural dialogue that has impact here at home and around the world.”

A transnational figure, Ai Weiwei has become a leader among Chinese artists and activists since he returned to China in 1993, after spending more than a decade in the United States. He has also become internationally recognized as a result of his actions that challenge the political status quo in China. Despite his arrest and detention for 81 days in 2011, the artist has continued to create art that transcends dualities between East and West, focusing on fundamental questions about the interrelations between art, culture, society, and individual experience. Since his detainment, Ai Weiwei 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’s new large-scale work, Stacked, designed for the upper lobby space features hundreds of bicycles from the Forever Company, which began production in Shanghai in 1940. The bikes will be stacked vertically to create a maze-like environment that encourages audiences to move around and through it. The reflective surfaces and delicate forms of this everyday object are both familiar and foreign, and invite audiences to consider the life of the objects that surround them every day. Also presented for the first is Jade Handcuffs. Carved from a single piece of this dark green stone, these handcuffs were produced for the artist by a craftsman trained in ancient stone carving methods. Ai Weiwei is a great admirer of traditional forms and techniques, and this work serves to honor and update this craft within a contemporary context. The handcuffs directly reference his own incarceration by the Chinese police, during which time he was handcuffed each day to a chair and interrogated. 

“Ai Weiwei is well known for his collaboration with PAMM architects Herzog & de Meuron, and developing the installation and design for the exhibition has been very much about creating a dialogue between the art and the architecture of our new building,” said Tobias Ostrander, PAMM’s Chief Curator. “We’ve focused on creating distinct experiences in the space, capturing the various diverse threads and political character of Ai’s career.”

Additional highlights from the exhibition include:

  • Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads, a series of 12 gigantic bronze sculptures that will be installed outside on PAMM’s large veranda. These 12 heads, which represent the traditional Chinese zodiac and reference the animal heads that were pillaged from the Yuanming Yuan Palace in 1860, are the artist’s first major public sculpture project, and are stopping in Miami as part of a four-year world tour. 
  • Ninety-eight black and white photographs taken between 1983 and 1993 while Ai was living in New York City. The photographs capture significant moments such as the 1988 Thompkins Square Park riots and his friends and colleagues, including film director Chen Kaige and poet Allan Ginsberg. 
  • Colored Vases (2007-10), a series of Han Dynasty vases that the artist dipped in industrial paint to trigger questions about authenticity and the value and meaning of original artwork. Ai Weiwei’s use of Han Dynasty objects is also seen in photographs of Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995/2009), in which the artist dropped a 206 BCE - 220 CE urn to the floor to express the notion that new ideas and values can be produced through iconoclasm. 

Organization and Support
Ai Wei Wei: According to What? is organized by Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, and Pérez Art Museum Miami. It is curated by Mami Kataoka, Mori Art Museum Chief Curator, and Tobias Ostrander, PAMM Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs.

It is presented by Citi.

About Pérez Art Museum Miami
Pérez Art Museum Miami, formerly Miami Art Museum, will open in December 2013 in downtown Miami’s Museum Park. The Museum is focused on collecting and exhibiting modern and contemporary art that represents Miami’s cultural diversity, while providing progressive educational and community programming. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the new, cutting-edge facility will provide room to showcase growing collections, expanded exhibition space to bring more world-class exhibitions to Miami-Dade County, and an educational complex. For more information, please visit pamm.org, find us on Facebook (facebook.com/perezartmuseummiami), or follow us on Twitter (@pamm).