Have you seen Warhol and Weiwei? This question has been buzzing around Melbourne over recent months as the NGV hosts a major international exhibition featuring two of the most significant artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei.
Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, developed by the NGV and The Andy Warhol Museum, with the participation of Ai Weiwei, explores the significant influence of these two exemplary artists on modern art and contemporary life, focusing on the parallels, intersections and points of difference between the two artists’ practices. The exhibition is about the practice and the possibilities that can be provoked through the practice of art making. Have you been? Have you seen?
Having been and seen the exhibition I must say that I was impressed with the curation of this significant event. To draw the parallels and intersections between these two artists intellectually is one thing, but the curation of this exhibition invites the viewer into the very experience of the intersection. Wandering from room to room I was aware of feeling privileged to be included in the conversation that had been unfolding between the artists and in the works themselves. The visual connections led me to questions about meaning and then moments of clarity and understanding. This was sensory feast reaching out to entangle the viewer and invite us to see with all of the senses.
Ai Weiwei at National Gallery of Victoria exhibition "Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei." Photo: John Gollings
Ultimately the breadth and depth of the work called me to wonder. I was left wondering about what it means to make art in response to the questions and stirrings of our own cultural imperatives. I was left wondering about the power of art to sustain these questions and the emerging conversations across time and space. I was left wondering about the role of the artist’s studio within the larger community and the social power that is harnessed and shaped within a material studio practice. Warhol and Weiwei at the NGV provoked me to think, to smile, to be saddened and yet surprised by the depth and breadth of what it means to share the experience of being human and the power of the arts to sustain the practice of simply being.
Have you been? Have you seen?
This is the question on so many lips with just a few weeks left before this exhibition closes.
YES, I have been – but there is still SO much more to be seen. Long may we look, in the hope of finally seeing.
Ai Weiwei. At the Museum of Modern Art, 1987. From the New York Photographs series. Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei
by Libby Byrne