Ai Weiwei – exhibition 2019

It’s time to write a new post. And no it won’t be about cosmetics or smth like this, but about some cultural moments of my life. I went to an exhibition!
If you’re interested in this topic stay with me. By the way in this post you’ll finally know in which city I live.

This summer there were many interesting exhibitions in our city and I thought it’ll be not bad to go to one of them. I had luck, Ai Weiwei visited us with a large colection of his exhibits. I thought when else I’de have a chance to see the work of a such famous artist, I simply must go. Said and done.

One thing I have to say before I start: I’m either an art critic or an art lover, I’ll simply write about my impressions. Or the better way is only to describe and you’ll make your own thoughts. And I don’t understand politics or support someone’s ideology with this post. I simply want to improve my cultural education. That’s all.


The Person

Few words about the artist. Ai Weiwei is the most famous Chinese artist nowadays, I mean, known abroad. To be honest I didn’t know much about him before. Only that he had some troubles with Chinese authorities about his political views or something like this.

He was born 1957 in Beijing. His father was a a Chinese poet and artist Ai Qing. Interesting that his father was a dissident and exiled for his political views. Ai Weiwei went tu the States in early 1980s and studied at Parsons School of Design for many years. Back in China he started his carrier as an artist with several cultural projects. He’s also known for his critisism of the Chinese government policy. I don’t really understand it, so if you’re interested more, you definitely can inform yourselves better. In spring 2011 he was arrested and detained for 81 days on an unknown location without charge. After his release he went abroad and lived for many years in Berlin.


The exhibition

The motto of exhibition was “Everything is art, everything is politics”. The whole exhibition in my opinion is devided in parts:

1) Refugees and victims;

2) Ai Weiwei is victim;

3) the rulers in disguise;

4) politics on and in art.

Ai tries to bring together art and politics that influence his life so much. Show his own experience with “power people” and on the other hand make clear how much troubles have refugees, people victims of war or genocide.

The day I chose for visiting the museum was cool and windy. Surprise, surprise: the whole exhibition was devided in two parts and exhibited in two different museums located far away from each other: K20 and K21. But don’t worry the transport connection in our city is good enough to arrive in few minutes from one location to another.



K 20 is one of the museums of Duesseldorf a city on Rhine. YES! Now you know where I live!

In this museum they had only two rooms reserved for Ai Weiwei.
I was given this brochure with description of the exhibits.

“Straight” the name of the exhibit.

A long room full of wooden boxes (which remind of coffins) full of metallic bars. It is a recall to the victims of the earthquake of 2008 in Chinese city Sichuan, when many thousands lost their lives. The bars are from the rubble of one of Sichuan’s schools. Amoung the victims were thousands of schoolchildren.

On the walls the wallpaper with the names of the students.


The other room. The name of the sxhibit: “Sunflower seeds”. I think it is the most known Ai’s work. I couldn’t make a better photo, because of the many visitors in the room. I simply didn’t want to make photos of other people. In the middle of the room on the ground a carpet of sunflower seeds. On the walls wallpaper and pictures made of lego stones.

You definitely think they’re real. I did too, but they’re made of porcelain. There’re more than sixty million.

On the wall the wallpaper made of I.O.U. (promissory notes).

They are a reference to Ai’s own story: after his release in 2011 from detention he was asked to pay a tax debt about 1.7 million euros. He could only pay with the help of the donators from all over the world. After this he made such notes for the donators. BTW the seeds on the ground represent the many donators.

The pictures on the wall. “Zodiac”
Twelve pictures with animals on them represent the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac and they are: rooster, goat, horse, tiger, rat, dragon, ox, rabbit, snake, monkey, dog and pig.
In the K 21 there were more exhibits of Ai’s works to see related to 12-Zodiac-animals.
I made photos only of three of them because the lack of time.
Every picture shows the animal in the front and a famous citiy or building or monument in the background. Here is Sidney (Australia).



Rat and London


Where can be this? Do you have an idea? I think it looks Japanese.




Now quick to the K21. The museum is located in the former regional parlaments building from the 19th century, in the middle of a little park with a small lake.

The Rheinturm (Rhine tower)

Finally we are there!

First view and first question: am I in a department store? (unfortunately, I didn’t read the brochure before)

On a small space three installations. The Newsfeed – on the floor, The Laundromat – clothes on racks, Idomeni – wallpaper.

Idomeni was a refugee camp at the Greek-North Macedonian border which Ai Weiwei visited and which was closed in 2016.. During his visit Ai made photos of the residents of the camp.

The clothes on the racks belonged to the residents of the camp. During the resettlement the residents left some of their things in the old camp. Ai gathered the clothes brought them in his Berlin studio, let them clean and patch and catalogue for his works.


On the floor under the clothing racks – The Newsfeeds, short text messages that everyone knows from the daily news.

Do you get the connection between all three exhibits?


Next Ai Weiwei’s story in photos – Photographs of Surveillance.

After his release from detention till he got his passport back, Ai lived under constant surveillance. He was followed by undercover policemen, his phone and computer were checked constantly. During this time Ai took a camera with him and made photos of his chasers.


Suddenly I saw several big iron boxes with little doors. What could it be and mean? The whole installation is called S.A.C.R.E.D. and consists of six boxes. Each of them has small openings on the side or on the top. The openings give a view inside on different scenes with small human puppies. With this installation Ai tried to show his everyday-life during detention in 2011 and the 24/7 surveillance.
Six letters (S.A.C.R.E.D.) – six boxes. “S” stands for “Supper” that means he was observed during eating. “A” – for “Accusers” he was interrogated several times a day. “C” – for “Cleansing” he was observed in the bathroom. “R” – for “Ritual” he was observed walking back and forth in his cell. “E” – for “Entropy” observed during sleep. “D” – for “Doubt” he was observed even in the toilet. The brochure says the installation’s name doesn’t mean holy, but refers to the definition of “homo sacer” from Roman law which means a man banned from society and outlawed.
Like I already mentioned above because of the lack of time I couldn’t make many photos. I only made some from Accusers box.


What is this?

Maybe one of the listening devices Ai found in his studio. I’m not sure. I should have read in the brochure before visiting! Anyway!

The Chronicle of Ai’s life


Study of Perspective

This is rude! So thought I and I was literally taken aback as I saw this.
The installation has forty photos, each of them a famous building or place. And each of them Ai gives the finger. An accusation to the power-people to take responsibility for refugees.


Blue and White Porcelain Vases

Ai connects tradition and history with war and misery using Chinese porcelain vases in style of Ming dynasty illustrated with war scenes, refugee camps etc.


Life Cycle

Once again Ai is dealing with the refugee problem.
A 17 meters long sculpture of bamboo. Looks like a boot full with people and its one carrying 110 passengers. Amoung them the 12 animals of Chinese Zodiac.

Under the boot a pedestal with quotations.


Ai made many installations with videos, little films and songs. Someone should have been there to watch and listen to them live. There were many other exhibits and installations, but like I explained above, I had not much time on that day to stay longer in the museum.


Coca-cola vase

Isn’t it naughty! Ai painted Coca-cola logo on a vase from Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD),. The vase is a part of some Ai’s recent works connecting past and modern to call to a dialogue between old and new symbols.

I cannot accuse Ai for this (he’s an artist), but I see in it hidden advertising! Oh-la-la!



A big thank to Ai Weiwei for giving us the opportunity to see his works.

And one thing that made me laugh.

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