New Exhibition: Ai Weiwei on Porcelain
12 September 2017
The “Ai Weiwei on Porcelain” exhibition opens at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum with the support of Akbank
The first solo exhibition in Turkey of work by Ai Weiwei, one of the most influential figures of contemporary art, has opened at Sabancı University's Sakıp Sabancı Museum with the support of Akbank.
Ai Weiwei attended a press conference for the exhibition, which is entitled “Ai Weiwei on Porcelain.” Museum Director Dr. Nazan Ölçer and Akbank Chairman Suzan Sabancı Dinçer both spoke at the conference, saying that in terms of the number of exhibits, this is the most comprehensive exhibition of Ai Weiwei's work, ever held anywhere in the world.
The exhibition consists of over a hundred art works displayed on three floors of the museum and focuses particularly on those made of porcelain. Over the course of his career Ai Weiwei has produced works in many media, including video, wallpaper and photography as well as porcelain, and all of these are represented in the exhibition. “Ai Weiwei on Porcelain” ranges from his first porcelain work produced in 1976-1977 to new pieces produced specially for the Istanbul exhibition, and presents an unequalled opportunity for exploring the world of the artist.
“Ai Weiwei on Porcelain” enables visitors to gain detailed insight into his art by means of arranging the works according to concepts such as "appropriation", "reproduction" and "iconoclasm". The exhibition traces the life story of Ai Weiwei, who has produced his art in line with the principle "art is life, life is art."
Ai Weiwei references both the Chinese tradition of handcrafts and Western art history in his works and his selection for the Sakıp Sabancı Museum exhibition encompasses examples that reflect these characteristics. Porcelain is the focal point of this exhibition, functioning as a door opening onto the fundamental questions that the artist asks about authenticity, the historical transformation of value systems and the role of art in influencing social change. Ai Weiwei treats Chinese porcelain as a material infused with meanings relating to both history and the present day, using its traditional form and idiom within topical debates. Works in the "Ai Weiwei on Porcelain" exhibition, which covers three storeys of the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, represent all the methods that are the defining elements in his porcelain works.
Ai Weiwei’s porcelain art is represented by iconic works such as his Sunflower Seeds installation, which put him at the forefront of contemporary art debates and made him one of the best known artists of our time. This installation is an example of how he uses both the connection of porcelain production with history and interpretations of the contemporary state of porcelain as a material. One of Ai Weiwei’s iconoclastic works, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, is an example of the different transformation methods designed to question the artist's existing value systems. His Blue-and-White Porcelain Plates and Stacked Porcelain Vases as a Pillar, which he produced specially for the Istanbul exhibition, stimulate ideas about the cyclical structure of history by reflecting the crises of our time in reference to ancient Greek and Egyptian carvings and ceramics.
Ai Weiwei sees art not just as an aesthetic activity, but as an opportunity to broach new questions. In reacting to events in daily life, he frequently references this uniquely Chinese material. In his works shown at this exhibition the artist reflects on the subject of history in the light of surviving fragments of antiques, and presents a comprehensive view of the contemporary world.
Throughout the "Ai Weiwei on Porcelain" exhibition, a programme of workshops, children's educational sessions, lectures and panels will take an in-depth look at Ai Weiwei’s art. The first of these activities consists of a talk by the artist and a conversation about his art production methods with Sir Norman Rosenthal, former director of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, on Wednesday 13 September at 18.00.
A catalogue whose contributors are Sir Norman Rosenthal, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Stacey Pierson will be published to accompany the "Ai Weiwei on Porcelain" exhibition. As well as the artist's own work, the catalogue will examine the tradition of Chinese handcrafts on which he draws, and will be a comprehensive source for Ai Weiwei's work. The "Ai Weiwei on Porcelain" exhibition will remain open until 28 January 2018 at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum.