Galleria Continua presents, for the first time in its San Gimignano gallery space, a solo show by Ai Weiwei. The exhibition focuses on Ai Weiwei in all his complexity, a man for whom art is a way of life, bound up inextricably with the political and social circumstances of his time, a humanist artist with great intellectual faith in the capacity of human beings to contribute with their every gesture to the betterment of society. Ai Weiwei expresses this optimism on various fronts, ranging from art to architecture, and from literature to documentary film, social media activities and public protests.
Recent works, some previously unshown and others on display for the first time in Italy, offer viewers an opportunity to learn more about one of the most important figures in contemporary culture, emphasizing the versatility of the artist and the cornerstones of his art. The exibition will feature sculptures, installations, videos and photographs: 258 Fake, a titanic work of documentation consisting of 7,677 photos taken between 2003 and 2011, which record the artist’s everyday life; Chang’An Boulevard, which records the life of a constantly changing city and of the people who live there; Rebar 49 a sculpture comprising three iron rings, used for reinforced concrete in the construction of civil buildings-one of the 150 originals deformed by the earthquake that Ai Weiwei collected in Sichuan, and two replicas. The work is a forceful condemnation of the Chinese government, but also a monument to those who were never found. Brain Inflation is an MRI showing the brain haemorrhage suffered by the artist at the hands of the Chengdu police in August 2009. Helmet, a marble sculpture, is a replica of a worker’s hard hat, of the kind used by the workers who tried to save the lives of earthquake victims in the days after the disaster.
Rounding off the exhibition are several installations of great visual impact, Ordos 100 Models (situated in the stalls area of the gallery), a large architectural model designed for Inner Mongolia, which once again saw Ai Weiwei working with the architects Herzog & De Meuron. The stage and the gallery’s tower space house Forever Bicycles and Very Yao, variations on a symbolically rich subject already explored by the artist in the past. These installations also spotlight the more conceptual aspects of Ai Weiwei’s work; on the one hand, the activation of a process of abstraction whereby the object becomes the symbol-structure of nothing, on the other, the realization of the work as a metaphor of the fabrication of power.