Grand Rapids — An exhibition of work by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is planned for 2017 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in western Michigan, officials announced Tuesday.
The show titled “Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural, State” is billed as his first at a botanic garden. Ai spent nearly three months in prison in China in 2011 amid a sweeping crackdown on activists, and in 2014 directed the transformation of the former island prison of Alcatraz into a tribute to the world’s political prisoners.
Meijer Gardens offers the opportunity to use diverse environments of gallery space, conservatories and grounds for the displays. Several past works are expected to be shown, as well as new work that’s being created specifically for the gardens and sculpture park.
“Central to the exhibition will be an exploration of Ai Weiwei’s dialogue with nature, the elements of nature, and natural elements as a means to convey the artist’s ideas to a broad and diverse audience,” Joseph Antenucci Becherer, chief curator and vice president, said in a statement.
Last year, Meijer Gardens celebrated its 20th anniversary in part with the dedication and installation of Ai’s outdoor sculpture “Iron Tree,” which was designed to prompt thoughts about how different people and cultures come together. Ai noted in the announcement that Meijer Gardens is committed to his work.
“This opportunity to bring an exhibition to Michigan is something I greatly anticipate” he said.
Made of 99 iron pieces, the reddish sculpture looks like a tree without leaves, but oversize stainless steel bolts that hold it together give it a mechanical, somewhat awkward appearance. A mold for each piece was made from branches and other wood that the artist found being sold in southern China.
The “Natural, State” exhibition is scheduled to open Jan. 27, 2017. It’s organized by Meijer Gardens with the artist and Lisson Gallery.
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