Chinese artist “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” to Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who helped design Beijing’s Olympic Stadium and is now known for his political activism, is opening the first North American retrospective exhibition of his work in Washington.

Ai, 55, has been fighting charges of tax evasion, and the government has moved to close his design firm according to the Associated Press.

Artworks in “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” feature his expressions of activisism and freedom, inckuding a 1995 photograph shows him giving the middle finger to the White House.

“I always admire his questioning attitude. I think it’s important for all of us to try to find the truth and where the truth is,” said curator Mami Kataoka of Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, who organized the exhibit, reported the AP. “It’s very difficult to find the truth, particularly in China.”

The installation reportedly includes sculpture, photography, video and audio works, encompassing most of the museum.

In a statement to the Smithsonian, Ai said the exhibition was a chance to communicate with far away audiences. “It is part of a continual process of self-expression,” he said.

The show is on view through February before traveling to Indianapolis, Toronto, Miami and New York City.

It includes new works created since the last major exhibition in Tokyo. One piece involves 3,200 porcelain crabs called “He Xie.” The Chinese words for river crab sound like the Chinese word for “harmonious,” part of the Communist Party’s slogan of “the realization of a harmonious society.” The term has become Internet slang for online censorship.

Visitors will find a photo montage covering the gallery’s walls and floors of the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium under construction. There are also photographs from Ai’s years living in New York in the 1980s and 1990s where he witnessed protests and government opposition and studied the work of Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Marcel Duchamp.


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