Few artists today have made quite the impact as Ai Weiwei. His work has spanned disciplines from architecture to music to filmmaking. He has tackled social issues from free speech to the refugee crisis. His work is bold in scale, concept and theme. His activism led to his arrest in China back in 2011, where he was imprisoned for nearly three months, but he continues to advocate for social justice through both his words and his art.
This fall, Ai brings work to three different institutions in Los Angeles. Beginning in late September, he will have pieces on view at Marciano Art Foundation, Jeffrey Deitch's new gallery in Hollywood, and UTA Artist Space, which recently moved to a Beverly Hills building that was redesigned by Ai himself.
The kickoff for this massive art event will be on September 28 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan will interview the acclaimed artist at the museum's Bing Theater.
"The refugee crisis is not about refugees, rather, it is about us," Ai wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian in February 2018. For the past several years, the activist-artist has been putting the spotlight on the worldwide refugee crisis. This is the subject of his acclaimed documentary, Human Flow and his 2017 sculpture Law of the Journey. It is also central to his recent work, Life Cycle, which will make its debut at Marciano Art Foundation. Like Law of the Journey, this new piece takes inspiration from boats used to transport refugees on across water on often perilous journeys. This time, Ai's sculpture also draws from Chinese kite-making traditions.
Ai's MAF exhibition will also include a few older pieces, including Sunflower Seeds, featuring a massive amount of porcelain sunflower seeds made by 1,600 artists in Jingdezhen, China. The installation originally showed at London's Tate Modern in 2010. Also on view will be Spouts (2015), which makes use of the spouts from antique teapots, and Windows (2015), an installation that brings together ancient Chinese literature, art history and Ai's personal story.
Jeffrey Deitch, the former director of L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art, returns to the city this fall with a new gallery in Hollywood, which will mark its opening with one of the three Ai Weiwei shows to hit L.A. Back in July, Artsy reported that the show will feature Ai's 2013 installation Stools, comprised of thousands of antique stools that the artist collected in northern China. The title of this show refers to Ai's Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads, a series of sculptures based on animals associated with the Chinese zodiac. For this new series at the Deitch gallery, Art Newspaper reports that those sculptures will be made of Legos.
Ai's creative pursuits are many and architecture is one of them. Recently, he designed UTA Artist Space, the new Beverly Hills venue for United Talent Agency - the gallery project is his first such endeavor in the U.S. The gallery moved into its new home over the summer and Ai will be showing here beginning in early October. This exhibition centers around Humanity, an interactive, performance art piece. Earlier this year, Ai released a Humanity book and guests will have the chance to record themselves reading from that book inside the gallery. The recordings will be used as part of a video that will screen inside UTA Artist Space and will be consistently updated. The show will feature recent works like Hands Without Bodies, Camera with Plinth and Up Yours mixed with older pieces like Iron Tree Trunk, Ceiling Lamp With Stars, and the show's title piece, Cao.