This week Tusk Gallery staff headed to NGV International to check out the exciting new works from Ai Weiwei featured in the current exhibition Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei. With many works to see from both artists, the exhibition took over the entire ground level. This included both main spaces and the foyer, making it the largest international exhibition in the NGV’s history.
When heading into the NGV on a Sunday afternoon around 3.30pm, I expected a quiet crowd with only a few people filling in the last few hours of the weekend. Maybe it was the usual yet unfamiliar hustle and bustle that the weekend brings, or the anticipation from the relatively new exhibition, but to my surprise the combination of the two had drawn in the crowds!
The exhibition generated an energetic anticipation from all who were there – which is what usually happens when you feature interactive balloons and lego building blocks throughout the show.
The viewer is first introduced to Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei as three repeated self portraits of each artist have their eyes locked, staring directly across from each other, helping to set the scene for the exhibition.
One may ask what the connection is between Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei. Coming from someone who didn’t know too much about Ai Weiwei, I was surprised to hear that they had never met. With their prime artistic highs throughout their careers being some time apart, there are similarities between the two throughout their careers. These similarities include their use of repetition within their works as well as their interest in documenting the countries they visited.
Even though Ai Weiwei is quite famous internationally, there are many Australians who had never heard of him before the show. The NGV certainly catered to this by displaying the wonderful array of works in a seamless flow, introducing him to visitors as a politically compelled installation artist. His many years of experimentation with various mediums are explained and examined, which help the viewer to understand how he arrived at the newly developed works, which are the main feature of the exhibition.
These five new pieces by Ai Weiwei included ‘Caomina Balloons’, an interactive installation of red and gold helium balloons which the viewer can gently push into the air, and ‘Forever Bicycles’ in which hundreds of metal bicycles tower over visitors upon entering the gallery foyer. ‘The Letgo Room’ was a highlight, which was constructed of more than two million plastic building blocks and has now been donated by Weiwei to the NGV collection.
Next Sunday, when you’re sitting at home wondering how to end your weekend on the best note possible, find an accomplice – art fan or not – and persuade them to share the experience with you. The exhibition is perfectly executed and receives a big thumbs up from Tusk Gallery. Thoroughly entertaining and compelling, this exhibition feels accessible to all and is certainly for everyone to enjoy.