Artist, activist and -lately- a media superstar! The refugee crisis brought Ai Weiwei to Greece (at Lesvos & Idomeni camps) where he tried to attract global attention to the problem. The exhibition at the Cycladic Art Museum, the first Ai Weiwei exhibition held in an Archaeological Museum, features older works, new works inspired by the refugee crisis and a statue created specifically for this exhibition inspired by the Cycladic Art, giving a clear testament of Ai Weiwei's artistic persona and his constant concern on issues of freedom, equality, tragedy relief and social changes.
The show is expanding in the two levels of the Stathatou Building (follow the Ai Weiwei-logo signs) while some artworks are exhibited in the main building side by side with the permanent collection.
1 - Chandelier, 2015
Ai Weiwei's artistic comment on China's social change from poverty to consumerism during the early 2000s when chandeliers came to signify prosperity and luxury. According to Ai, another inspiration for this work was a scene in Sergei Eisenstein’s 1928 film October, a Soviet silent historical film, in which the shaking crystal chandelier suggests the instability of a society undergoing profound change.
Ai Weiwei, Chandelier, 2015, Copper, crystal and light fixtures, 400 x 240 x 230 cm. Photo: Paris Tavitian © Museum of Cycladic Art
2 - Standing Figure
Inspired by Cycladic Art Ai Weiwei created a large-scale figure (in contrast with the small-scaled Cycladic figurines) which incorporates elements for his photographic series Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn. As well as directly mimicking works from the Museum of Cycladic Art’s collection, Ai’s new work reflects on contemporary China and Greece, their identification and attachment to their pasts, and their different treatment of history.
Ai Weiwei,Standing Figure, 2016. Marble, 188 x 80 x 58 cm. Photo: Paris Tavitian © Museum of Cycladic Art
3 - Flag (Greece), 2016 - Flag (Europe), 2016 - Flag (Shadow)
Ai Weiwei's visual comment on the complexity of the relationships between states and the concept of nation. Two of the flags are inspired by those of Greece and the European Union, who are struggling in the attempt to be surrogate homes to the displaced and homeless. The third flag embodies this liminal space occupied by the refugees in Lesvos: the rounded shape in its centre is the outline of the body of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish ethnic background whose image made global headlines after he drowned on 2 September 2015 in the Aegean Sea.
Ai Weiwei, Flag (Greece), 2016 | Flag (Europe), 2016 | Flag (Shadow), 2016, Satin, 288.5 x 189 cm. Photo: Paris Tavitian © Museum of Cycladic Art
4 - Surveillance Camera with Plinth
With Surveillance Camera with Plinth, the artist memorialises the apparatus of CCTV surveillance by replicating it in marble, medium of monuments and gravestones sourced from an imperial Chinese quarry. As with such works as Mask and Cao, Ai deftly manipulates the associations of historically-loaded materials, ironically elevating the symbols of governmental control and lack of privacy which the Chinese people endure.
Ai Weiwei, Surveillance Camera with Plinth, 2015, Marble, 120 x 52 x 52 cm. Photo: Paris Tavitian © Museum of Cycladic Art
5 - Rebar & Case
A metaphorical memorial to the lost children of the 8.0-magnitude earthquake tore through China’s Sichuan province. Ai designed small caskets in jagged shapes with the appearance of traditional furniture, an ironic play on the idea of creating items for everyday living in the form of funerary objects. Encased within is a marble rebar, a pure white replica of the warped steel reinforcing bars that Ai collected from the site of the poorly built schools.
Ai Weiwei, Rebar & Case, 2014. Huali wood, marble and foam, dimensions variable © Cycladic Art Museum and courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio
6 - Mask
Ai Weiwei created Mask, carved from a single block of marble, as a response to the record-breaking levels of air pollution in Beijing; a result of the rapid eapid economic growth, leading to an increase in car ownership and coal usage.
Ai Weiwei, Mask, 2011, marble, 80 x 80 x 30 cm. Photo: Paris Tavitian © Cycladic Art Museum
7 - Divina Proportione
Based on geometry and mathematical precision, Ai Weiwei’s Divina Proportione is an exultation of Classical ideals of proportion and harmony. The object takes the form of a colossal polyhedron, a sphere in three dimensions with flat polygonal faces, straight edges and sharp corners.
Ai Weiwei, Divina Proportione, Huali wood, ø 130 / 70 cm. Photo: Paris Tavitian © Museum of Cycladic Art
8 - Cao
Ai Weiwei’s installation Cao is a field of white marble grass, a visual paradox and further challenge to his craftsmen, who were to translate the delicate, natural subject using the brittle stone. The word “cao” has several meanings, depending on its pronunciation. Its literal translation is “grass’, however it can also be used pejoratively as an insult.
Ai Weiwei, Cao, 2014, marble, 20 x 22 x 25 cm each. Photo: Paris Tavitian © Museum of Cycladic Art
9 - Tyre
This work was made for the exhibition by Ai in response to his experiences in Lesvos, witnessing the unfolding refugee crisis. Throughout his career, Ai has chosen to focus on particular found objects, everyday items, which become recurring motifs for the principle themes of his work. ere, Ai places the spotlight on a simple rubber lifebuoy ring of which many litter the shores of Lesvos, washed up on the beach. Skillfully crafted in fine marble, the object is canonised, elevated from the status of detritus to icon.
Ai Weiwei, Tyre, 2016, marble, 100 x 80 x 40 / 80 x 80 x 20 cm © Cycladic Art Museum and courtesy of Ai Weiwei studio)
10 - The Cycladic Museum cafe
You should treat yourself with an iced coffee at one of the coolest cafe's in Athens city-centre, right on the covered passageway that links the two museum buildings. It is minimal, stylish and gives you the necessary cool-boost to face Athens' summer heat. Also, great espresso freddo!
The exhibition will be on view until October 30, 2016
Museum of Cycladic Art (MCA)
4, Neofytou Douka str. / Vas. Sophias & Irodotou 1
Line 3 : stations Evangelismos, Syntagma (Line 3 terminates at the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport)
Line 2 : station Syntagma
Buses : Α5, Ε6, Ε7, Χ14, 054, 200, 203, 204, 220, 221, 224, 235, 408, 608, 622, 732, 815
Trolley-buses : 3, 7, 13
Standard entrance fee 7€
(except for Monday)
Monday - Wednesday - Friday - Saturday 10:00 - 17:00
Thursday 10:00 - 20:00
Sunday 11:00 - 17:00