'At the Museum of Modern Art' (1987), From the New York Photographs series 1983–93, collection of Ai Weiwei. © Ai Weiwei; Andy Warhol artwork © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS, New York. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei in one exhibition? It sounds like an art aficionado’s wet dream. Thanks to the National Gallery of Victoria, Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei brings together two of the biggest names in art from the twentieth century until now, opening up a dialogue between each artist’s life and work. It’s also the largest show in the NGV’s history, featuring over 300 works.
The exhibition—which curator Max Delany describes as “lively and dynamic”—was developed in consultation with Weiwei, who has been greatly inspired by Warhol. Although living and working in vastly different cultural contexts, the exhibition goes to show that each artist is a provocateur in their own right, and that they share deep links. For example, Warhol obsessively documented his everyday life, keeping diaries and taking hundreds of photos per day, while Weiwei has used the internet in a similar way to record, and make public, his life and work. “The ways that both artists engage in communication is a very important alignment,” Delany tells The Creators Project, adding, “Then there are other motifs as well. There’s a focus on celebrity throughout the exhibition, but also dissidence; there’s a focus on the relationship between the individual and the state.”
The exhibition also draws parallels between each artist in a more concrete sense. By placing Warhol’s soup cans and Weiwei’s coloured vases in proximity, we can see how each artist’s practice incorporates mass production and re-contextualisation, giving familiar images or objects new meanings. Flowers are another crossover theme throughout each artist’s work—look at Warhol’s ‘70s pop prints, and then at Weiwei’s new installation ‘Blossoms’, which is made-up of thousands of delicate white Chinese porcelain flowers.
Weiwei has created four other major new commissions just for the exhibition, including a work composed from 1,500 bicycles, and a five-metre tall wall of chandeliers, which sits in front of the waterwall at the NGV’s entrance.
On display are hundreds of Warhol’s most iconic works—photography, paintings, portraits, silk screens and 500 Polaroids—as well as a full scope of his video work, which offers a rare opportunity to delve into some of his lesser-seen archive. “I think the exhibition gives an opportunity to see Warhol’s work in a more nuanced way, as being complex,” Delany explains. “Quite often Warhol’s work is considered to be all about the surface, or to be shallow, or to be all about celebrity, but in fact his work is also about critiquing consumer culture. He was very clearly understanding of the commodified nature of art itself, equally he was very much a kind of history painter, who chronicled tragedy and death and disaster.”
Don’t miss this amazing summer exhibition, only in Melbourne until April 24, 2016. Book now at qantas.com.