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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to bring work to the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery in Washington
File photo of a young woman looking at a portrait by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in front of Tompkins Square Park from 1986 at the Martin Gropius Building in Berlin. EPA/BRITTAPEDERSEN.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Sculptures by an outspoken Chinese artist are going on display at Smithsonian museums in Washington.

This exhibition will feature prolific Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s monumental installation, Fragments (2005). Noting the abundance of antique wood on the market, Ai had a number of pieces transported from Guangdong to his studio in Beijing to create a series of objects and installations. Fragments is a culmination of that body of work. Working with a team of skilled carpenters, Ai turned pillars and beams of ironwood (or tieli) salvaged from several dismantled Qing dynasty temples into a large-scale seemingly chaotic work. Yet examined more closely, one discovers that the installation is an elaborate system of masterful joinery and delicate balance relations. Seen from above, the entire complex is anchored by poles marking out the borders of a map of China. Using traditional materials and craftsmanship, Ai effectively transforms fragments from works that began hundreds of years ago into, what he calls, an “irrational structure.” In this simultaneously destructive and creative process, he highlights the bewildering reality that the built environment and society’s place within it are being dramatically transformed.

Fragments has not been shown before in the U.S. The installation is part of Perspectives the Arthur M. Sackler’s contemporary Asian art series.

Since 2003, the Freer|Sackler’s critically-acclaimed Perspectives series of exhibitions has featured work by internationally recognized contemporary artists, including Anish Kapoor, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Y.Z. Kami, Hai Bo and Minouk Lim. In 2004, the Freer|Sackler and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden jointly presented works by renowned contemporary Chinese artist, Cai Guo Qiang; and in 2006, the two museums coordinated their presentations and programming of exhibitions by Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. By positioning works by the same artist within both the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art and the national museum for modern and contemporary Western art, these joint exhibitions heightened awareness of cultural interaction and interpretive contexts in each museum. The public and critical response was overwhelmingly positive.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained for three months last year in China for speaking against the government. The Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery said on Tuesday that it will display the contemporary art piece "Fragments" by Ai in May. The work has not been shown before in the United States.

The Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum also plans to open a companion exhibit later this year called "Ai Weiwei: According to What?"

Under terms of Ai's bail, he is prohibited from leaving Beijing until June, so he is unlikely to see the Washington exhibits in person.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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