Ai Weiwei (艾未未) was born in China in the year 1957 the son of the famous Chinese poet Ai Qing, who got in great troubles during the Cultural Revolution (1967 – 1976).
Ai is a Chinese contemporary artist – a sort of modern days Leonardo da Vinci – active in sculpture, installations, architecture, curatorial work, photography, film, social and political criticism. Ai Weiwei collaborated with Swiss architects to design the Bird Nest national stadium in Beijing. As a political activist, he had been and still is highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government handling of the Chinese people, which is contrary to the Chinese Constitution.
Photos of his latest work called Diposition have circulated before the beginning of the show in Venice. The gigantic figures, six in number made of acrylic and steel, were secretly shipped out of China, the title of the individual panels is ‘S.A.C.R.E.D.'( acronyms of (S)upper, (A)ccusers, (C)leansing, (R)itual, (E)ntropy e (D oubt). They were then shipped to Italy through an arranged by London’s Lisson Gallery. This will be part of a collateral event of the 55th international art exhibitions: the Sant’Antonin church at the Sestiere, initially built in the VII century by the Badoer Family then rebuilt and consecrated in 1680.
The artist himself was forbidden to travel to the opening of his show, and because of this his mother Gao Ying – an enthusiastic believer of his genius and his strongest supporter – went to Venice to inaugurate it. It has been reported that when the pictures were shown to her she started to cry and went away refusing to talk to journalists. These works of art are now placed in the old church closed inside a series of Egyptian-style sarcophagi which will be opened soon and visitors will be able to peep inside.
Another of Ai Weiwei’s work is shown at the German pavilion, it is called ‘Bang’, a fantastic structure composed of 866 wooden stools, used to explores the craft traditions of China and ideas of cultural value within the context of contemporary art.
S.A.C.R.E.D is a work of art that, I am sure, will be immortal. I do believe that even after a millennium the China we know today will be judged also by looking at these images in which the artist describes his personal humiliation as a human being. Ai Weiwei was incarcerated for 81 days on 2011 on trump financial charges (tax fraud) and kept under watch by guards day and night in a secret location. These strong images represent the repressive side of China, indeed they will be come sort of icons like ‘Quarto Stato’ by Pellizza da Volpedo, dating to 1901 which has a similar gigantic size.
It is probable that China will strike back soon at Ai Weiwei. They cannot tolerate such kind of high level dissent. It is better for Ai Weiwei to enjoy his present glory as, most probably, he will get arrested soon and detained in harsher conditions and for a longer time.