Ai Weiwei in Florence!
From 23 September 2016 to 22 January 2017, at Palazzo Strozzi, one of the most popular artists on the contemporary scene
Palazzo Strozzi strengthens its focus on contemporary art through one of the most influential voices on the art scene of our times: Ai Weiwei.
He has been fighting for freedom of expression his whole life. He was born in 1957, a year before his father, poet Ai Qing, was accused of being a political extremist and sent to a labour camp along with his family. Upon Mao Tse-tung’s death in 1976, Ai Qing, one of China’s greatest modern poets and Nobel Prize-nominee, was allowed to return to Beijing.
In 1981, Ai Weiwei moved to New York City and lived there for a few years. He then returned to China where he made quite a name for himself on the international scene as artist, architect, designer and charismatic political activist.
Ph Alessandro Moggi
In April 2011, Ai Weiwei was arrested without any officials charges and held in a secret place of detention for 81 days.
After his release, his passport was confiscated and he was not allowed to leave the country. In spite of the restrictions on his individual liberty, the artist went on organizing exhibitions across the world. Four years later, in July 2015, he was given his passport back.
In the past few years, Ai Weiwei’s fame, with the help of the Web that has made him known worldwide, has transcended the art world.
That is why Arturo Galansino, the director of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation, called from London to Florence to take “command” of the city’s major contemporary art venue, came up with the idea of an exhibition on this great Chinese artist.
In September 2015, Ai Weiwei was busy getting ready for an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, the first one since his release. Galansino was working for the London art institution and thought that Ai Weiwei could be the right name to inaugurate the Foundation’s new course under his direction.
A number of meetings and exchanges of information followed and an on-the-spot inspection in December 2015. And the project became real.
It is going to be the artist’s first exhibition in Italy, the greatest retrospective ever held including two works specially created for Florence. One of them is Ai Weiwei’s personal interpretation of the city’s history and the other is going to “occupy” Palazzo Strozzi’s facade as an act of denunciation.
Ph Alessandro Moggi
The underlying theme? One of the world’s open wounds: immigration with all the desperation and suffering it involves, which Ai Weiwei knows only too well having experienced it himself.
As underlined by director Galansino, this exhibition is the first step towards filling the gap that surrounds contemporary art in Italy, which is viewed as exclusive to an intellectual elite.
“In London, Ai Weiwei was treated like a movie or music star. In Florence, he was recognized mostly by tourists…” It’s a long road, but the first step looks promising.