A major international exhibition featuring two of the most significant artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei opened at the National Gallery of Victoria
, Melbourne, on 11 December 2015.
Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, developed by the NGV and The Warhol, with the participation of Ai Weiwei, explores the significant influence of these two exemplary artists on modern art and contemporary life, focussing on the parallels, intersections and points of difference between the two artists practices. Surveying the scope of both artists careers, the exhibition at the NGV presents over 300 works, including major new commissions, immersive installations and a wide representation of paintings, sculpture, film, photography, publishing and social media.
The exhibition explores modern and contemporary art, life and cultural politics through the activities of two exemplary figures one of whom represents twentieth century modernity and the American century; and the other contemporary life in the twenty-first century and what has been heralded as the Chinese century to come.
Ai Weiwei commented, I believe this is a very interesting and important exhibition and an honour for me to have the opportunity to be exhibited alongside Andy Warhol. This is a great privilege for me as an artist.
Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei premieres a suite of major new commissions from Ai Weiwei, including an installation from the Forever bicycles series, composed from nearly 1500 bicycles; a major five metre-tall work from Ais Chandelier series of crystal and light; Blossom 2015, a spectacular installation in the form of a large bed of thousands of delicate, intricately designed white porcelain flowers; and a room-scale installation featuring portraits of Australian advocates for human rights and freedom of speech and information.
Ai Weiwei lived in the United States from 1981 until 1993, where he experienced the works of Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, among others. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again) was the first book that Ai Weiwei purchased in New York, and was a significant influence upon his conceptual approach. Ai Weiweis relationship to Warhol is explicitly apparent in a photographic self-portrait, taken in New York in 1987, in which Ai Weiwei poses in front of Warhols multiple self-portrait, adopting the same gesture.
Each artist is also recognised for his unique approach to notions of artistic value and studio production. Warhols Factory was legendary for its bringing together of artists and poets, film-makers and musicians, bohemians and intellectuals, drag queens, superstars and socialites, and for the serial-production of silkscreen paintings, films, television, music and publishing.
The studio of Ai Weiwei is renowned for its interdisciplinary approach, post-industrial modes of production, engagement with teams of assistants and collaborators, and strategic use of communications technology and social media. Both artists have been equally critical in redefining the role of the artist as impresario, cultural producer, activist and brand and both are known for their keen observation and documentation of contemporary society and everyday life.