Ai weiwei at Palazzo Strozzi

Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi is putting on a major exhibition on one of the most famous and controversial contemporary artists, for the first time in the cradle of the Renaissance: Ai Weiwei. More than an artist, he is also a major dissident journalist and a symbol of the fight for freedom of expression.

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His spectacular and provocative art works are taking over all of Palazzo Strozzi. The building’s facade is covered by twenty-two orange life rafts, an indictment of the extremely current issue of migration and refugees. Over 100 of his works are exhibited within, inviting visitors to reflect on the ugliness of society, with a heighted focus on the relationship between tradition and modernity.

The first major installation is a labyrinth of unused bicycles, a statement about the wastefulness of society — everyone uses cars now, increasing pollution, a genuine problem for our era.


The second room affected me the most emotionally. It is about the terrible 2008 earthquake in Sichuan. The installation is dedicated to the many students who died inside collapsed schools. The snake, a symbol of Chinese culture, is created out of the backpacks of the dead students and is above the room, covered with coffins built with Chinese wood and topped by the rods that supported the collapsed buildings.


All the other works underscore the relationship between tradition and modernity, expressing an ambivalent relationship in China between the old and the new, by manipulating objects, image and metaphors of the country’s culture, and exposing all of its inconsistencies. Doing this involved using wood to build objects from Chinese tradition alongside contemporary objects like portraits of political dissidents made with LEGO bricks — including one of Dante Aligheri.


Ai Weiwei is also well known for his photographs portraying places of worship in countries around the world. The perspective center is taken up by a middle finger stretched towards those backgrounds in an international vulgar gesture of scorn.


Ai Weiwei is unquestionably an important artist, and a major force on the international scene for his political activism, making himself a symbol of the fight
against all forms of censorship.

This exhibition is here to help us reflect on what is happening around us.

Palazzo Strozzi

From September 23, 2016 to January 22, 2017

Every day from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm; Thursday, until 11:00 pm


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