A major international exhibition featuring two of the most significant artists of the twentieth and twentyfirst centuries – Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei – will open at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) 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.
‘‘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,” said Ai Weiwei.
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.
Also on display will be 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 milieu.
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.
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. For more information, visit: www.ngv.vic.gov.au for details.
Image: (left) Andy Warhol, Self-portrait no. 9, 1986, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the National Gallery Women’s Association, Governor, 1987. © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS, New York. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney. (right) Gao Yuan, Ai Weiwei, 2012 © Gao Yuan