Ai’s latest exhibition may herald new start

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-11 0:18:02

Artist Ai Weiwei opened his solo exhibition of modern art on Saturday at the 798 Art District, which garnered attention from art circles and foreign media in Beijing.

According to the sponsors, the exhibition, titled Ai Weiwei, was approved by local authorities. It disassembled and rebuilt a 400-year-old Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) ancestral hall in two different exhibition spaces. Ordinary visitors will interpret the exhibition as a display of modern civilization versus ancient buildings. Ai will also stage another two exhibitions in Beijing this week.

Ai is the most controversial Chinese mainland artist. He has been given the most favor from both Western political and art circles. In China, audiences know him far more for political reasons than for his art works. Ai in recent years has been awarded various prizes on the international stage, ranging from human rights to art. He can be considered a lucky one among Chinese dissidents.

However, there are controversies within China's art circles about whether Ai's art is as valuable as the West claims. Some believe that the West supports Ai out of political interests while Ai has deliberately used his political label to make up for his artistic weakness.

Given the abstract quality of modern art, it's impossible to assess Ai's artistic achievements by a uniform standard.

If Ai takes China as the root of his art, he should create more works to enable the Chinese public to understand him and his art. After all, only a few in China are familiar with his work, which must be of regret to an artist.

It's an important gesture that the local authorities gave permission to Ai's solo exhibition. The new start is also an opportunity. The environment Ai faces today is different from 2011 when he was involved in a lawsuit.

Art cannot be separated from ideology, however, art, if specifically made to serve ideology, will be ephemeral. This is an experience drawn from history that deserves the attention of all artists. The ideal relationship between artists and politics is supposed to be moderate. 

Objectively speaking, Chinese society is still unfamiliar with modern art. It would be meaningful if Ai could produce more works of art that could help broaden the Chinese public's horizons and boost public interest in modern art.

As art should keep pace with China's development and prosperity, China now has a robust demand for creative artists. Will Ai become such an artist and also win the acclaim of the Chinese public? We hope so. Perhaps it's time to turn over the page on Ai's political controversy.

Posted in: Editorial

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