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Ai Weiwei
At the Museum of Modern Art 1987
Media Release • 27 Oct 15

Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, USA
NGV, Melbourne, 11 December 2015 – 24 April 2016
The Warhol, Pittsburgh, June – August 2016

A major international exhibition featuring two of the most significant artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei – will open at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Melbourne, in December 2015, and The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, in June 2016.

Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, developed by the NGV and The Warhol, with the participation of Ai Weiwei, will explore the significant influence of these two exemplary artists on modern and contemporary life, focussing on the parallels, intersections and points of difference between the two artists’ practices. Surveying the scope of both artists’ careers, the exhibition at the NGV will present over 300 works, including major new commissions, immersive installations and a wide representation of paintings, sculpture, film, photography, publishing and social media.

Presenting the work of both artists’ in dialogue and correspondence, the exhibition will explore modern and contemporary art, life and cultural politics through the activities of two exemplary figures – one of whom represents twentieth century modernity and the ‘American century’; and the other contemporary life in the twenty-first century and what has been heralded as the ‘Chinese century’ to come.

Ai Weiwei commented, “I believe this is a very interesting and important exhibition and an honour for me to have the opportunity to be exhibited alongside Andy Warhol. This is a great privilege for me as an artist.”

Ai Weiwei lived in the United States from 1981 until 1993, where he experienced the works of Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, among others. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again) was the first book that Ai Weiwei purchased in New York, and was a significant influence upon his conceptual approach. Ai Weiwei’s relationship to Warhol is explicitly apparent in a photographic self-portrait (taken in New York in 1987) in which Ai Weiwei poses in front of Warhol’s multiple self-portrait, adopting the same gesture.

Each artist is also recognised for his unique approach to notions of artistic value and studio production. Warhol’s Factory was legendary for its bringing together of artists and poets, film-makers and musicians, bohemians and intellectuals, drag queens, superstars and socialites, and for the serial-production of silkscreen paintings, films, television, music and publishing.

The studio of Ai Weiwei is renowned for its interdisciplinary approach, post-industrial modes of production, engagement with teams of assistants and collaborators, and strategic use of communications technology and social media. Both artists have been equally critical in redefining the role of ‘the artist’ – as impresario, cultural producer, activist, and brand – and both are known for their keen observation and documentation of contemporary society and everyday life.

Andy Warhol (born Pittsburgh 1928 – died New York 1987) was a leading protagonist in the development of Pop Art, and his influence extended beyond the world of fine art to music, film, television, celebrity and popular culture. Warhol created some of the most defining iconography of the late twentieth century, through his exploration of consumer society, fame and celebrity, media, advertising, politics and capital.

The NGV will present over 200 of Warhol’s most celebrated works including portraits, paintings and silkscreens such as Campbell’s Soup, Mao, Elvis, Three Marilyns, Flowers, Electric Chairs, Skulls and Myths series; early drawings and commercial illustrations from the 1950s; sculpture and installation, including Brillo Boxes 1964, Heinz Tomato Ketchup Boxes 1964, and Silver Clouds 1968; films such as Empire 1964, Blow job 1964, and Screen Tests 1965, among others from Warhol’s extensive filmography; music and publishing; alongside a selection of previously unseen work. The exhibition will also bring together a wide range of photography including over 500 Polaroids documenting Warhol’s friends, colleagues, artistic and social milieux.

Ai Weiwei (born Beijing 1957) is an artist and social activist who is among the most renowned contemporary artists practicing today. One of China’s most provocative artists, his work encompasses diverse fields including visual art, architecture, publishing and curatorial practice, cultural criticism, social media and activism. Ai Weiwei’s work addresses some of the most critical global issues of the early twenty-first century, including the relationship between tradition and modernity, the role of the individual and the state, questions of human rights, and the value of freedom of expression.

For the NGV exhibition, a suite of major commissions will be premiered, including a new installation from the Forever bicycles series and a new monumental work from his chandelier series, among others. These will be presented alongside key works by Ai Weiwei from his early drawings in the 1970s, readymades of the 1980s, and painting, sculpture and photography of the 1990s and 2000s. New and recent installations, including new configurations of major works such as S.A.C.R.E.D. 2013 and Trace 2014, will sit alongside a wide range of photography, film and social media from over the past four decades. It will be the most comprehensive representation of the artist’s work in Australia to date.

NGV KIDS PROJECT: WARHOL AND WEIWEI’S CATS

As part of the exhibition Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, NGV Kids will present a large-scale installation especially for children and families which highlights both artists’ love of cats.

Cats have held a strong presence in the homes, studios and lives of both artists. In the 1950s Warhol lived with a herd of Siamese cats, all of whom, except for one, were named Sam. Warhol’s fondness for cats was captured in his early career ink-blot drawings and photography, as well as in books, posters and films. In Ai Weiwei’s studio over thirty cats have free reign and frequently appear in the artist’s social media and blog posts, as well as the artist’s interviews and reflections.

The dedicated installation will present drawings of cats by Warhol selected from his small press books, Holy Cats and 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy (c.1950), among other previously unseen works, and a series of photographic portraits of Warhol with his feline pets.

Ai Weiwei will develop a project especially for children, reflecting his interest in cats for their independence and freedom, aloofness and twenty-first century status as internet memes. Warhol’s adoption of new technologies and use of photobooth images will also inform a multimedia interactive enabling young visitors to take a Warhol-inspired image which can be shared with friends and family via social media.

A children’s art book about the artists will be published to coincide with the exhibition as well as a ten-day summer festival, in January 2016.

THREE MAJOR ILLUSTRATED PUBLICATIONS

The Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition will be accompanied by a suite of three dynamic and visually-led publication formats: a deluxe collectors’ book in a presentation case, including an original limited-edition print by Ai Weiwei; a prestigious hardback edition; and sumptuous paperback volume. The major publications will explore the conceptual, formal, strategic and historical resonances between both artists’ work.

The publications will feature a series of essays by international art experts, curators and scholars including: Eric Shiner, Director, The Andy Warhol Museum; Max Delany, Senior Curator, Contemporary Art at NGV; Caroline A. Jones, Professor of Art History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; John Tancock, art historian, curator and editor; Jay Curley, Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh; Anna Poletti, Lecturer, Literary Studies, Monash University; Kathryn Weir, Director of Cultural Development, Pompidou Centre, Paris; Matthew Wrbican, Chief Archivist, The Andy Warhol Museum; and Larry Warsh, publisher and collector, New York.

NGV CONTEMPORARY SUMMER SERIES

Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei continues the NGV’s recently established Contemporary Summer Series, and will occupy all of the major exhibition galleries on the ground floor at NGV International over the summer of 2015–16.

The exhibition will subsequently be presented at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh in North America during summer 2016.

#Warholweiwei @ngvmelbourne

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