Lisson Gallery

Ai Weiwei's largest solo exhibition in Europe opens at Düsseldorf's K20 and K21

17 May 2019

Ai Weiwei has opened a major retrospective exhibition, ‘Ai Weiwei: Everything is Art. Everything is Politics’ across both sites of the K20/K21 Kunstsammlung Nordhein-Westfalen museum in Düsseldorf. The artist’s largest solo show to date in Europe is comprised of large-scale sculpture, installations, wallpapers and photographs, that take Ai’s famous motto as a starting point for explorations into themes of totalitarianism, cultural symbols, the individual in society, and personal and national histories.

Several seminal works are presented in Europe for the first time: Straight (2008-2012), on view at K20, consists of 164 tonnes of stacked rebar steel, salvaged by Ai from the ruins of poorly constructed school buildings that collapsed following devastating earthquakes in China’s Sichuan province in 2008. This is alongside a full presentation of the more than 60 million handmade ceramic seeds that form Sunflower Seeds (2010) in the museum’s Klee Halle, and Ai’s IOU wallpaper - all of which reference injustices experienced by a younger generation in China.

Featured at K21 are large-scale installation works made within the past 5 years, such as the 17 metre-long replica rescue boat, Life Cycle (2018), containing over-sized figures made from bamboo and sisal yarn. This is suspended beside photographs taken by Ai in Calais during the filming for his award-winning documentary Human Flow (2018), and further wallpaper designs in the style of traditional Chinese ceramics, depicting the stories of those caught in the migrant crisis.

'Everything is Art. Everything is Politics.' continues at Kunstsammlung NRW until 1 September 2019.

Image: Ai Weiwei, "Straight" (2008-2012), installation view Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, K20, 2019 © Ai Weiwei; Courtesy Kunstsammlung NRW. Photography Achim Kukulies

Ai Weiwei's largest solo exhibition in Europe opens at Düsseldorf's K20 and K21
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