DÜSSELDORF, Germany – A museum in the western German city of Düsseldorf is getting ready to unveil four decades of work by Ai Weiwei, the biggest retrospective ever to be shown by the Chinese artist in Europe.
“Everything is art. Everything is politics” opens Friday across two large spaces at the Kunstsammlung and will run until the beginning of September.
Ai, who has been living in the German capital Berlin in recent years after he was permitted to leave China, expressed his excitement over the coming together of his work for the show at a press preview ahead of its official opening.
The retrospective is made up of large-scale installations, photographs and sculptures, as well as films.
The collection explores the artist’s regular themes, which include political persecution, refugees and human rights violations in China.
The show also touches on the repression suffered by Ai in his home country, where he was held for 81 days over his criticism of China’s political leadership and corruption among those in power.
Among the pieces featured are a 164-ton installation entitled “Straight,” which alludes to the children killed when their precariously constructed schools collapsed after an earthquake struck southwestern Sichuan province in 2008.
Another installation, “Laundromat,” denounces the situation of refugees crammed into reception centers in Greece following the migrant crisis that peaked in 2015.
The artist moved to Germany in 2015 after he was granted permission to leave China. He had spent four years not being able to leave the country.
In Germany, he received treatment for a brain hemorrhage sustained in an alleged beating by Chinese security forces.
Ai transformed his injuries into an artistic experience with a photographic exhibition in Munich, something that he has replicated in Düsseldorf by showing scenes of persecution in China.
The artist was detained in 2011 when he tried to leave China on a plane.
He spent 81 days in prison while being investigated for alleged tax evasion, which was followed by a lengthy stint under house arrest until he was finally allowed to leave the country.