Ai Weiwei: Libero | Florence
Ai Wewei is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most influential contemporary artists, known for his art as much as for his political activism. The Chinese artist, born 28 August 1957 in Beijing, can finally travel around the world again, spreading his free speech message through his work, after almost three months' detention and four years of waiting for having his passport back after the release.
It was just a year ago when the big retrospective at the Royal Academy of Arts in London took place and now his first major exhibition in Italy, entitled Libero (free), is open in Florence and it will end on the 22th January 2017. The exhibit takes place in Palazzo Strozzi, a beautiful Italian Renaissance palace built for Filippo Strozzi the Elder, a rival of the Medici who had returned to the city in November 1466 after the exile and desired the most magnificent palace in the city, in order to assert the political statement of his own status.
This place has a strong meaning in the Italian, and more specifically Florentine, history, but Ai Weiwei is famous for subverting the ordinary status of things: he decided to totally restyle the palace starting from the façade, with the site specific installation Reframe: twenty-two large orange rescue dinghies, grafted onto Palazzo Strozzi’s windows, draw the public’s attention to dramatic themes of refugees and their choice to push their luck by crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe on this totally unsafe boats. This re-imagination of the spaces includes also some wallpapers designed by Weiwei and the big installation Refraction, who welcome the guests in the entrance of the palace.
The exhibitions starts with Stacked, a maze made of piles of bicycles, then it dedicates a big room to the Sichuan earthquake inquiry with the disturbing Snake Bag. Thereafter, you can see a lot of different artworks, like the Study of Perspective, Blossom from the Alcatraz exhibition @Large, or the big mythological creatures made with bamboo and silk, hanged up at the high ceiling of the palace. Weiwei also chose to pay homage to the Italian culture with a series of portrait in LEGO of the Italian men who, like him, were victims of the grip of censorship, like Dante Alighieri, Galileo Galilei, Girolamo Savonarola and Filippo Strozzi, the owner of Palazzo Strozzi, banished from the Medici Family.
The retrospective includes a display of the artist’ photography work in the Strozzina Gallery (Center for Contemporary Culture at Palazzo Strozzi). In here you can see seventeen photos of New York 1983-1993 and a pair of rooms totally dedicated to Ai Weiwei as web influencer.
As every Ai Weiwei’s exhibition, Libero is a unique piece, placed in one of the world’s most beautiful city, cradle of European culture, full of art, history and now contemporary art too.
By Alessandra Stefanini.