No bones about it – Florence exhibition

View of FlorenceThe Humans of 2015 are now just a skeleton this year in the ‘Ytalia’ Art Exhibition at Forte di Belvedere, Florence! No bones about it Florence never fails to surprise me!

As I wandered up to the Fort  I thought of the other exhibitions that had fired my passion or uninspired me, yet I always return to this fantastic location and never Spritual Guard jan Fabreget tired of the fabulous panorama.

Last year’s Jan Fabre Spiritual Guards’ had an overdose of beetles and crosses for my taste. Although I did like the gold turtle in the main square of Florence. While the Zhang Huan‘s exhibition of Buddhas ‘Soul and Matter’ had been a startling reopening to the fortress in 2013.

This year we are treated to polystyrene fiberglass bones covered in gypsum which precariously sway in the breeze and for safety and security reasons have to be tied down!

The Ytalia exhibition – presented 100 Contemporary Italian works of Art about Energy, Thoughts and Beauty to demonstrate, as the pamphlet blurb read: “how Italian Art has strongly influenced the international artistic community and has been a model to admire the perfect balance between classicism and anticlassicality, eclecticism and purism, invention and citation, immanence and transcendence.” 

Forte Belvedere entranceI have my doubts that the exhibition lived up to its promise but it was still well worth the visit.Art Exhibit Florence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of beautiful marble alongside rusty iron and the geometric nature of the exhibits  lures the eye into labyrinths and techno prints reflecting Fibonacci’s sequence.

A splash of colour inside the building seems totally unconnected….

and other weird to the absurd exhibits leave me pretty flat!

Skeleton Florence

 

I am constantly drawn back to the panorama of Brunelleschi’s dome seen between oscillating bleached ribs and lassoed toes, or about to be blow-dried…..

 

Art Exhibit Florence

 

And the typical Tuscan view of cypress trees, olive groves and a stray castle tower at the back of the fortress, while stumbling through marble blocks much to the disdain of the Fort custodian!

So just in case you are in Florence, there is still time to see the  ‘Ytalia’ exhibition as it remains open until the 1st Oct and there are more exhibits dotted about town – the Basilica of Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti.  I would suggest Forte Belvedere any year you may be over for the view, the relaxing alfresco wine and café bar and the cheap entrance fee!

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The Old and New of Milan

Milan Navigli canalA weekend in Milan, exploring the new and enjoying the old as we stayed in  the area of the canals – Navigli. I think it’s the only place to stay as it has a layback feel to it, a residential atmosphere that kicks on into party time of an evening as the canals are lined with bars and cafes. But the noise can be shut out as most of the apartments hide inside courtyards locked behind mega doors.

In the quiet of the morning we explored the old laundry area alongside the Opposite the old laundrygrand canal. The florist offered an amazing insight into the side street and its past of laundry workers who resided in the area and worked non stop on providing services to the well to do of Milan.

Laundress

She also specialized in Kokedama– often called poor man’s bonsai. A ball made of wet Akadama soil and Keto (peat). The plant is set into the ball and afterwards the moss is wrapped around it.  Aluminium wire or nylon wire fixes the whole bundle, and it is sometimes used to suspend the Kokedama in the air. She had all sorts of plants in kokedama – orchids, ferns to succulents. As well as a lovely selection of handmade soaps with delicate perfumes.

The old laundry

 

The old laundry exposed the ancient stone slabs used to beat the washing clean under the shade of the roof.

In the same street, hidden courtyards with artist studios and handmade products.

In contrast the curves and fluid lines of the new skyscraper area of Milan around Piazza Gae Aulenti, viewed from the ground was pretty remarkable…..

from above, on the 39th floor of the Lombard Regional office, quite awesome!

More enticing sinuous lines in the Mudec cultural museum together with a beautiful exhibition of Kandinsky.

God Save the Food restaurantFollowed by a great lunch in a trendy, very vegie restaurant, jovially called “God Save the Food” where the beetroot humus and wok vegies were delicious! Served up by a very friendly Tuscan waiter who was homesick, and tired of the frenetic pace of Milan. In fact the constant noise from traffic, Metro and general buzz is not something I would ever get used to.Navigli Grand Canal Milan

 

Still while our real reason for the visit to Milan was something quite different – an Enrique Iglesias concert not to be missed – discovering the old and new of Milan during the day was just as enjoyable.

 

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Spring fever in beautiful Pienza

View of PienzaAs Pablo Neruda said “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming”. I have just spent a few days at my artist friend in Pienza bathed in glorious Spring weather and fields of wild tulips and cherry blossoms. The gently rolling hills of Tuscany can not get any better than this area of Val D’Orcia and I am always pleased to be back.

The area has UNESCO World Heritage status: as it is an exceptional reflection of the way the landscape was re-written in Renaissance times to reflect the ideals of good Val d'Orciagovernance and to create an aesthetically pleasing pictures. The landscape of the Val d’Orcia was celebrated by painters from the Siennese School, which flourished during the Renaissance. Images of the Val d’Orcia, and particularly depictions of landscapes where people are depicted as living in harmony with nature, have come to be seen as icons of the Renaissance and have profoundly influenced the development of landscape thinking.

PienzaThat sense of harmony prevails and I could spend hours along the walls of Pienza absorbing these views in the changing sunlight. Or, as we did, take a stroll to the ancient Church of Corsignano with its decorative monsters above the doorway from the 12th Century, although parts of the church date back even to the 7th Century!

Complete harmony in nature. Pienza too is an absolute delight with its elegant Renaissance square and harmonious buildings, as Pope Pius Piccolomini had the money and power to transform his birthplace (Corsignano) into a Utopian dream city.

But that’s not all as the strong scent of the local food speciality, namely the pecorino cheese, wafts along the street and the delicatessens display other tempting delicacies like pici pasta, dry porcini mushrooms, salamis, local honey and extra virgin olive oil.

The quaintness of the place continues with unique shops selling exquisite linen ware, and the kitchenware shop is full of copper pots and pans, basket ware, handmade knives and unusual olive oil servers.

My artist friend Enrico Paolucci is hard at work on a special ‘owl’ commissioned for a birthday surprise so I am left to wander the studio taking photos of his new work ( a homage to his father, Aleardo) and make the most of his hospitality.

After work, dinner in a quiet spot in Pienza and a late night stroll to catch the magic of the moment. Pienza never loses its charm nor the Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, its harmony with Nature.

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Nothing like the Santo Spirito church

Brunelleschi ranted and raved as he led us personally to the Altar in the Santo Spirito church in Florence – just one of the personalities we were to meet from the itinerant Theatre group – La Compagnia delle Seggiole. This genius who had designed the Dome on the Cathedral of Florence some years earlier, was grumbling about how his plans for this church had been modified after his death. He vent his frustration on his local patrons who had not permitted the destruction of the dwellings facing the Arno river, as he had rather boldly designed the church to face the river! While he had begun designs for the project around 1428, work did not commence until 1444 and since he died 2 years after he never saw the completion…..at least not until his return this evening!Santa Spirito church Florence

Monna Giovanna  (the voce of the local people) swept past and told him to stop grumbling as she recounted life in the area amidst  the wool workers and dyers.

I love storytellers and this theatre group has taken me through many monumental buildings in Florence and historical events like the dreadful flood in 1966.

The church is in Oltrano – the opposite side of the Arno river a less touristy area with the most beautiful plain façade (again not how Brunelleschi had planned). The Renaissance elegance so evident inside, and a rather lay back tree lined piazza outside created to eliminate the squalor that surrounded the church in the past. Even today it still has a hangover from its seedy past of drug dealing and alcoholics, replaced now by American students and hip bars and hangouts.

In1980 Mario Mariotti projected hundreds of outlandish slides on the façade, a ‘happening‘ considered advanced for its time and certainly Florentines remained impressed by the display. They were still talking about it in 1985 when I arrived and took me to a café in the piazza where oodles of photos of the slides almost completely covered the walls.

This evening instead was a step into the minds of the great artists of the time. A young Michelangelo appeared praising his recently departed patron Lorenzo the Magnificent for having left him under the protection of the Convent of Santo Spirito. Here he could deepen his studies of anatomy by studying the corpses from the hospital and in thanks he carved the crucifix for the church, at the tender age of 18.

 

Florence Santa Spirito church

An entertaining experience as we wandered through the Cloisters of the Dead, accompanied by Giuliano da Sangallo, the architect of the octagonal Sacristy  which houses Michelangelo’s crucifix. A stop to admire the frescoes of the refectory and later welcomed into the Vestibule by an Augustinian monk with more stories to tell.Frescoe in Refectory

 

 

 

Then it was time to say goodnight to our illustrious  company and Monna Giovanna was quick to remind us that she will be taking us through the Museum of the Innocents as “Una Donna Innocente” next month!Theatre performers

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I did it my Wei and Never Sorry

Florence Palazzo StrozziSome of you may think the title is about me but it is actually taken from Ai Wei Wei’s film called ‘Never Sorry’!

The Wei Wei exhibition ‘Libero’ (Freedom) is in Florence now until the 22 Jan 2017 and I was keen to go early having seen his exhibition in Melbourne in Jan 2016.  There has been quite a lot of comments and some hefty criticisms as the orange rubber dinghies used by refugees, were hung around the majestic Palazzo Strozzi housing the exhibition.

The ‘Huffington Post’  was huffing heaps in an article by Luca Rossi published 5 days before the opening, to give you an idea with an excerpt since the article was in Italian:

‘Ai Weiwei has not done anything politically significant, if not taken advantage of the misfortunes and injustices of the world to increase his fame and the price of his works. Showing the rafts on the facade of the Palazzo Strozzi shows us the refugee problem? As if I did not know that there is a problem, as if the problem did not pass every day on the news. What can an artist do? A lot, but Ai Weiwei does nothing.

If he was born in Viterbo, and  was not “exotic” to the Western world he would not have had the exposure of which he and his gallery owners can enjoy; it is a new form of colonialism, aimed at creating expensive trinkets for the rich to show in some apartment in New York and London. And here are the remains of an earthquake in China in an exhibition in London, and here are the rafts and life jackets hanging of refugees in the city of Berlin and soon (now) in Florence. I would like to see one of those rafts in a living room of Park Avenue.’

wei wei solar cookers

Solar cookers on a wing to freedom

I don’t have the same impression, and believe artworks exist to provoke thought and reflection and as a result, can mean a range of things to different people, and Ai Wei Wei’s exhibits are definitely thought provoking. Many Florentines have never heard of him before so it is a great opportunity for them to discover his works as well as encourage others and tourists from all Italy to visit the exhibition.

 

The impact of the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 which killed roughly 70,000 people is still present with his ‘Snake Bag’ exhibit of 360 kids backpacks sewn together alongside coffins, in memory of over 5,000 children crushed beneath school buildings. In the film ‘Never Sorry’ the list of children’s names, gathered by Wei Wei’s volunteers is papered on the wall of his studio and on the anniversary of this tragic event the public are invited to read a name out loud, continuing the condemnation of the inadequate building materials and structure.

While his career took off after his bird nest stadium for the Chinese Olympics in 2004, Wei Wei has since regretted the building and snubbed the Olympics as being purely party propaganda. Fellow Chinese artists consider him different from those who normally graduate from the Art Academy as he persists with a ‘slap in the face’ style that continues to irritate the Chinese government. His love of his own culture yet his need to break from tradition and conceive images and projects of social significance have set him apart.

wei wei Renaissance men

 

His use of Lego continues in his series on political dissidents, curiously I think taken from Renaissance Italy.

The delicate bamboo and silk figures from Chinese culture – the Birdman, Flying Fish and the Great Wind inspired by kites from his childhood adorn another room.

ai wei wei selfies

Wei Wei selfies

The film shows a very personal side – as a great foodie (which shows!), his love of cats, (keeping around 40 cats and dogs at his studio), his playful side as a father, his organisation of craftsmen, artists and volunteers involved in his projects,  and his constant filming. All gave me a clearer picture of where this artist is coming from.

Free speech puzzle

Free speech puzzle

 

His brand of liberal thinking and use of social media will continue to raise criticisms both inside and out of China and while Wei Wei may be more insecure than what he appears he sure knows what he wants to say with his Art. Wei wei leg gun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Changing Faces of David

Black David statueA black statue of Michelangelo’s David lay in the main square in Florence, as in mourning, “a symbol of the pain and suffering of mankind today. A world that is prey to blind hatred and madness.” The Mayor of Florence dedicated the statue to the victims of Nice as while the life size replica of David had been planned months earlier its unveiling during the Michelangelo week coincided with the tragic terror attack in Nice.

It would be one of the rare occasions that tourists could lie in the arms of David, a rather odd pose for such a famous work of art, created yet again by the skilled workers from the Carrara marble area.Black David statue

It brought to mind the many faces of David that we are exposed to, apart from the obvious masterpiece in the Accademia.

In the panoramic square overlooking the city – Piazzale Michelangelo, an elegant bronze copy of David adorns the square keeping a watchful eye on the city and the hoards of tourists at his feet.

I must add that one of my historian guides did suggest that she considered the copy a poor one as she felt David had a ‘floppy’ bottom….which I leave you to judge for yourselves!

Florence CathedralThe original David was commissioned to demonstrate the virtues of a good government, forever victorious against the enemy, represented by the biblical figure of David who killed Goliath with a stone from his slingshot. Many of you may not know that it was originally to be placed on a side chapel of the Cathedral hence the slightly oversized head and hands to cater for viewing from below. However on seeing the finished statue it was agreed that it was too beautiful to be placed so high up and better placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio ( the Town Hall) as the defender of civil liberties and a warning against intruders.

It was only moved to the Accademia in 1874 after being damaged more than once in the public square, and it remains there today continuing to awe its viewers.

Curiously David was carved from a block of marble previously abandoned by another sculptor who considered it of poor quality, while Leonardo da Vinci contested Michelangelo for use of the same block. Legend has it when the Minister Soderini who had ordered the purchase came to inspect it, he criticised the big nose, so Michelangelo pretended to chisel away at the nose letting some marble dust fall to keep the Minister happy. Other more modern criticisms I have heard from many unabashed tourist who asks – Why do these sculptures always have small penises? “…small penises were more culturally valued… large penises were associated with very specific characteristics: foolishness, lust and ugliness ” For those interested in the full article click here.

And so this magnificent sculpture, probably the most famous in the world is also used and abused:

In an anti junk food campaign – Mivchelangelo's David

before and after Big Macs!

Or in trashy souvenirs –

aprons, magnets, statuettes

that abound in Florence,

and not so trashy magnets, that animate my fridge!

Still Michelangelo’s David survives it all and in his serene beauty remains the most spectacular sculpture in history and we are forever blessed with his presence here in Florence.

Davide Michelangelo


 

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Walking on water- Christo!

Christo Floating piers

Christo’s Floating Piers had to be seen to be believed and we were not to be put off by the thousands of visitors which increased steadily until the last days. Besides it was our chance to ‘walk on water’ and the experience was not to be missed!

 

 

Christo had invaded Lake Iseo, Northern Italy with a rather unusual project – 90,000 Floating Piers Christo sketchsquare meters of yellow fabric sewn into panels and stretched across 220,000 polyethylene cubes covered with a 70,000sqm of felt to form a Floating Pier. A 3km walkway from the mainland to the large Island of Monte Isola, across and around the tiny (privately owned)  Island  of San Paolo and another 2.5 kms of fabric lining the streets in the villages of Peschiera Maraglio and Sulzano.

The experience was fantastic! Walking across the enormous expanse of silky gold, the gentle rocking beneath our bare feet, the rhythmic undulating rolling of the waves massaging the pier and us into a magic sunset.

 

Floating PiersThe Art Installation was literally taken by assault as soon as it opened on June 18th averaging around 75,000 visitors in a day, and the enthusiasm did not wane despite the blazing heat and the queues and general chaos to get there. On a reassuring note 120 lifesavers and 150 assistants monitored the walkway, although with the record crowds they were a mere drop in the ocean….or should I say Lake!?

However there were no tragic incidents and the crowds enjoyed strolling across the floating pier, and those fortunate enough like us sat and bathed in the sunset over the Lake.Floating Piers

Christo decided that the installation should open during the period in the year when there were more daylight hours, to maximize the light effects on the fabric: “On the lake the humidity is constant and the colour of the fabric reacts and changes constantly. It is red in the morning and goes to yellow and gold in the day. ”  So true.

The Floating Piers has cost $15 million and was financed by the artist through the sale of his works. As all installations of Christo and Jeanne-Claude it was temporary and is being dismantled today and the materials to be recycled.

Weird as it may seem it was a great event, an amazing experience and a delight to be softly rolling with the vibes of Lake Iseo!.Christo Floating Piers

Christo wrao Sydney coastine

I had vague memories of Christo‘s previous works – wrapping buildings and a very early one wrapping the Sydney coastline in the late 1960’s! His famous work wrapping the Riechstag in Berlin, together with many other awe inspiring projects, details of which were on display in the Museum of Santa Giulia in nearby Brescia.

For more about Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s bio, works, up-to-date exhibition listings, check out Artsy’s Christo and Jeanne-Claude page

 


 

 

 

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The old and new of Carrara Marble workers

As I watched the building of the antique marble arch of Palmyra in Syria I could not be more impressed by Italian creativity and talent in using the most update technology of 3D printers to recreate a work of art destroyed in the civil conflict in Syria. While never to replace the original it is still heartening to see the use of the current technology in recreating such a masterpiece. Congratulations to the company –TorArt– which has succeeded in the project, working together with the Institute of Digital Archeology.

Fascinated as I am by the new technology ( see my previous blog on Makers)  I am even more impressed by seeing it used to enormous benefits of us all.

And to think it is on my doorstep, by workers from Fantascritti quarry in Carrara, Tuscany, adds an extra note of pride for their ingenuity and craftsmanship. The arch went on display in Trafalgar Square London 19th April, and will go to New York, Dubai and then home to Syria.

Arch Trafalgar square

Arch in Trafalgar Square Photo credit Lucy Glasser

Fantascritti quarry museumIt also brought back fond memories of various tours I had taken to the quarry of Fantascritti where a retiree of the quarry –Walter Danesi, had created an outstanding museum dedicated to the difficulties and hardships involved in extracting the most beautiful marble in the world. Marble that has created masterpieces, like Michelangelo’s David and more.

The difficulties can be seen here in the photos from the quarry museum, where many have risked their lives over the centuries and continue to do so. The last unfortunate accident on site was but 10 days ago when two workers were crushed under tons of marble and a third rescued as he remained suspended in the air. Not surprisingly the area of Carrara has been known to  be a strong anarchist  haunt as Man challenges the elements of Nature and the ongoing pressure of extraction to meet today’s demands.

Walter Danesi always had lots of stories to tell of his time as a quarry worker and gave a warm welcome to my tour groups and my family. He Walter Danesi book dedicaionwrote a dedication in his book which I cherish “To lovely Susi, with admiration, Walter Danesi”Walter Danesi book

 

 

 

 

 

So if you are ever in the area of Carrara, about an hour from Pisa or Lucca, drive up to the Fantascritti Quarry to see for yourselves the marvel of marble and the incredible effort that has gone into it’s extraction and sculpting. Be warned though, it is still a working Quarry and the truck drivers don’t take kindly to visitors on the long windy road…..understandably!

 

 

 

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Tuscany’s own Arabian Nights

Sammezzano Castle

Photo credit – Stefano Berti

“Nothing is More Beautiful” is the motto inscribed in the stunning oriental decorations found in the exotic Sammezzano Castle only 30kms from Florence and just a hop skip and jump from my place. Perched high among its secular tree park and oblivious to the thousands of tourists that visit The Mall shopping outlet below, it is something of a tragic icon.

The inspiration of the Marchese – Ferdinand Panciatichi Ximenes of Aragon who transformed and extended the existing building in 1843-1889 into the Oriental paradise that we know today. An architect, engineer, artisan, disillusioned politician, a visionary and lover of Art and History,  a man who donated significantly to our famous Art Galleries – Uffizi, Accademia, Bargello – financing the 18 statues in the niches of the courtyard of Uffizi, yet would die alone in serious debt over the Sammezzano Castle project.

A step inside and the explosion of colours takes your breath away, it’s truly amazing, overwhelmingly exotic, bizarre, beautiful beyond words! Like walking into a film set of ‘Arabian nights’ , each room unique and enchantingly named – Room of Stars, Lovers Room, Room of Butterflies, Lily Room, and the famous Peacock room and more….

All Photo credits to Save Sammezzano members

Castle Sammezzano rooms

Despite the obvious Arab Spanish influence Ferdinando Panciatichi had never been to Spain, Egypt or Turkey and the workers on site were all local Italians even less likely to have ever travelled outside of the country. Yet the decorations reflect his passion for the mysterious and rather outlandish styles (for the period) and his vision of creating something entirely different.Room of ButterfliesSammezzano decorations

 

 

 

 

Peacock Room

Peacock room

 

 

 

 

 

Every decoration, from floor to ceiling done to exquisite perfection and each room designed to utilise the sunlight to reflect on the elaborate patterns and mirror fragments for illumination.

 

Sammezzano hallwaySammezzano castle decorations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The  eccentricity of Ferdinando Panciatichi is shown in many of the Latin inscriptions incorporated in the decorations, one in particular showing his disillusionment with politics and on his resignation in 1870 inscribed- ‘Italy is in the hands of thieves, tax collectors, prostitutes and middlemen who control it and devour it. But not for this I grieve, but for the fact that we deserve them.’ !

After his death the Sammezzano Castle was kept in the family until the 1970’s when it was bought by the Palmerston Hotel group and converted into a luxury Hotel which remained in operation until 1990. It was during this period that I was fortunate to make a visit with my parents on the pretext we were interested in making a booking!

In the 1990’s the Castle was bought by an Italo-English Company – Castle Sammezzano SRL – who initially intended to expand the complex with a golf course, pool and tennis courts as the Castle is surrounded by around 250 acres of parkland, 100 acres of which are woodlands with secular native and foreign trees personally selected by Ferdinando.

Sammezzano damage

Graffiti scawled across the decorations

But the project was put aside and the company has done nothing to the site since they bought it. So the Castle is in a state of abandonment, left open to vandals who have defaced some of the decorations and stolen various pieces of furniture and statues. In 2015 the company agreed to place the Castle up for auction but there were no buyers. At a hefty cost of €15 million plus the cost of renovations that would be required it is not that enticing, nor do the present owners feel any responsibility to preserve what is a truly exceptional building and parkland.

Two voluntary associations –  Comitato FPXA and Save Sammezzano have been created to take up the cause, putting pressure on the Government to buy the building (but they declined), and even tried via a crowdfunding project to raise money for its protection and upkeep but were unsuccessful. On occasions the Comitato has been allowed to take visitors through.

A beautiful video on the Castle on the Castle was created by Francesco Esposito for the  Kickstarter project.

Sammezzano lionThe two histrionic lion statues that guarded the façade have been stolen, the last one only recently on1st  April 2016. The only recompense for their disappearance will be the curse that is said to now go onto the thieves – who will die a long slow death by paralysis as did the owner of the house – Ferdinando Panciatichi of Aragon

My only hope is that the curse may extend to it’s current owners, for allowing such a unique masterpiece of Florence go to ruin!Google map

If anyone is interested the next auction is on the 24th May, 2016 so start saving!!!

 


 

 

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Weiwei Out


Just squeezing in a last Aussie post:

Can Art change the world? Can it be an effective form of protest? After seeing the Warhol and Ai Weiwei exhibition in the National Gallery of Victoria I would have to say yes! That’s not to say I liked everything I saw, but can understand why China may consider Weiwei their most dangerous man – putting him in jail, shutting down his blog and still making him get official permission to travel. Yet his Art installations and sculptures are on show globally and he continues to be in the news for various protests on human rights and freedom of speech and more recently refugees.

SacredLiving in a world exposed to a thousand images  each day, it is easy to become desensitized, and the exhibition helped me to slow down and think about his message. Ai’s work is provocative, confronting, stimulating and ‘way out’, yet a refreshing approach to current issues.

It is an absolute mammoth exhibition and with both artists work, it really needs more than one visit. His video on the making of ‘Straight’ would have to be what impacted most. I was mesmerised by the massive preparation of 200 tons of steel rods taken from the schools crushed in the devastating earthquake of 2008 that left 87,000 dead or missing and nearly 5million people homeless. Ai’s workers pounding endlessly on those rods, a symbol of the endless frustration and anger at such poor constructions that collapsed on the heads of innocent children in class. The completed installation ripples across the pavement with an eerie silence.

Leg gun

Ai’s utilization of social media creates images that go viral worldwide – ‘Leg gun’ conceived on the Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, was a protest in defiance of internet censorship and  taken up globally.Leg gun

 

 

 

Antique urns shockingly breathe new life with modern logos of mass consumption or are carelessly doused with paint.Neolithic pot

Weiwei and warhol

 

 

 

StoolsPillar through Round Table

 

 

 

 

Profile Duchamp

Ancient furniture is reconstructed into ‘new and often confounding arrangements.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Like Marcel Duchamp, he sees art as a playing field with no rules.’ 

 

Tiananmen square

 

Brash and irreverent are the photos of his wife in Tiananmen square and his giving the finger to various establishment buildings all over the world.Individual and State

 

 

 

Always controversial, with both his message and materials to portray it.Lego political statements

 

 

 

Lego changed their policy after initially refusing to supply the bulk order of Lego pieces for Ai’s political project. ‘Lego’s decision to stop asking bulk customers what they want to do with the bricks is a “victory for freedom of speech“, said Ai Weiwei

Caonima balloons

 

Kids dance amongst Caonima balloons, again a cheeky play on words  between a common Chinese profanity/ alpaca/ twitter symbol?!

So much of what Ai does is mega, employing hundreds of expert artisans to produce the most exquisite porcelain flowers, or reproduce the common Forever bicycles.

Porcelain flowers

 

 

Porcelain flowers

 

 

FlowersFlowers in a bicycle basket recall Ai’s 600 days waiting for his passport to be returned, as each day he placed a bouquet in a bicycle in front of his studio.

 

Recently he decided to suspend his exhibitions in Denmark in protest at the Danish Parliament authorizing the seizure of assets of asylum seekers and migrants and retarding the immigrants family reunification. It is not the only issue that the artist has had with Denmark.Forever Bicycles

The Melbourne exhibition is impressive and thought provoking, weird and wonderful, and Ai Weiwei will certainly continue to have a major impact, challenging China and the rest of the globe to look at the current issues of our changing world.

 

I hope I have not spoiled it for any of you still to see the show. I promise there is far more than I have touched on here, so prepare yourselves for a long day!

Ai Weiwei exhibition

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

And if you are in Florence, Ai Weiwei will be at Palazzo Strozzi from the 23 Sept 2016 – 22 Jan 2017

 

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