Monday, 15 October 2012

Ai Weiwei

How to show an artist whose work has increasingly become his life, his voice, and his digital output? It's a question being debated by critics in America as Ai Weiwei's survey show, Ai Weiwei: According to What? opens at the Hirshhorn Museum.

As Roberta Smith writes in her first para of her New York Times piece:"it would be inaccurate to say that Mr. Ai’s fame rests primarily on his visual achievement, even factoring in his role in helping the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron design the Beijing Olympic stadium". She continues
Tellingly, the opening label of the Hirshhorn show identifies Mr. Ai as “one of China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artists” rather than one of its greatest or most original. Too often in this exhibition, the objects come off as a window dressing that is all but overshadowed by the celebrity, pronouncements and predicaments of the artist himself. They suggest that he doesn’t make great art as much as make great use — amplified by digital technology — of the role of the artist as public intellectual and social conscience.
Likewise James Panero, writing in the Wall Street Journal, observes
Mr. Ai has always been a conceptual artist. The challenge of a conventional museum exhibition is that his output has become more and more immaterial. It could be that Mr. Ai is now best reflected in other ways—for example in Alison Klayman's inspiring documentary "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry." Blogging, Twitter and the Internet itself, to which Mr. Ai devotes eight hours a day, have become his genuine new media and his most consequential work. Unfortunately, this traditionally mounted show tells us little about that. Walls of photographs—with both wonderful snapshots from his New York years and thousands of digital images from his Internet feed—could offer extra context, but they are so poorly labeled and hung so high that they serve as little more than decoration.
New York Times slideshow of works in the exhibition

Ai Weiwei: According to What? Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

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