The face you won’t get to see this weekend.
A retrospective of Ai Weiwei’s multimedia work will be unveiled at the Art Gallery of Ontario this weekend, but the artist himself will not be allowed to go. Ai Weiwei’s passport was taken away after he was jailed for tax evasion in 2011, adding “economic crimes” to the list of reasons the Chinese government isn’t cool with him. That list includes his criticism of China’s stance on human rights and democracy, protests he inspired through art and social media, and the general questioning and challenging of his environment.
No passport means Ai Weiwei won’t be able to check out the touring exhibit in his honour, titled “According to What?”. But Ai Weiwei is maintaining a critical eye, seeing the situation not as something sad, but rather an “opportunity [for him] to think about these constraints, to act in response, and relate these actions to profound meanings.” Leave it to Art Review’s named “Most Powerful Artist in the World” to draw empowering reflection from an oppressive situation. “The most important (meaning) is the message of freedom,” says Ai Weiwei. Zing!
Still, the curator of modern and contemporary art Kitty Scott feels that the AGO exhibit is incomplete without him. “More than anything, I wish Ai Weiwei could see this exhibition, I wish that he could be here in Toronto, I wish he could experience this with us, because every time we make an exhibit with a contemporary artist, it’s a time to celebrate that artist.”
We’ll have to attend in masses on his behalf. “According to What?” opens this Saturday and runs until Oct 27. Find more details here.