Ai Weiwei Sculptures on Display

Two Large-scale Works by Renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei Currently on Display in Austin

Austin is fortunate to be hosting a two-site exhibition featuring the work of Ai Weiwei, a world-renowned Chinese artist and outspoken political activist who uses art objects, writing, performance, films and his own words to speak out about China’s oppressive regime. But although this has led to him being persecuted—and even imprisoned—in his own country, Ai Weiwei continues to uncover truths about daily life in China through the medium of art.

The first work, currently on view at the Waller Delta—adjacent to the Waller Creek Boathouse at 74 Trinity Street—is called Forever Bicycles (2014). Consisting of 1,254 bicycles with an archway underneath for viewers to pass through, the sculpture resonates deeply with the artist and has been on display in different configurations in numerous cities, including New York, Washington, Venice, and London. The title of the sculpture alludes to the Forever bicycle brand, whose mass produced bicycles were omnipresent on the streets of Shanghai as Ai Weiwei was growing up. However, they were financially unattainable for many.

Forever Bicycles

The second work, located at the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria (3809 W. 35th Street), is called Ai Weiwei’s Iron Tree Trunk (2015). This 15-foot-high cast iron sculpture resembles the hollowed-out remains of a dead tree trunk and was inspired by Ai Weiwei’s visit to the town of Jingdezhen in the northeastern Jiangxi province. There, he saw locals collecting and selling dry wood and tree trunks that they had gathered from the mountains for their unique shape and aesthetic. The sculpture is one of a series of large-scale works based on the elegant and twisting forms of these dead trees.

Both pieces, which are on long-term loan, are meant to provoke discussion about the environment and human rights, addressing important social and political issues that affect us all today. The two-site exhibition is part of The Contemporary Austin’s “Museum Without Walls” program, which brings works of art out into the community.

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