Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist and activist, unveiled the ‘Arch’, a cage-like artwork, one of the artist’s most renowned pieces, in Stockholm, Sweden, along with the Brilliant Minds Foundation. The first of a new sequence of public cultural exhibits which Brilliant Minds had also engaged in facilitating in Stockholm over the upcoming five years, and it is situated at the exterior entrance of the National Museum. The 12-meter-tall stainless-steel construction has silhouettes of two individuals clutching each other in the centre, appearing to burst through the steel bars of the cage. The artwork was intended to represent refugee experiences and is considered a hymn to freedom. The sculpture stands on the Blasienholmen peninsula in Stockholm’s archipelago, near the National Museum. The artwork was last exhibited in New York in 2017 as a portion of the “Good Fences, Make Good Neighbors” display beneath the arch of the Washington Square Monument. When the sculpture was initially presented, it focused on racism and the worldwide refugee crisis created by regional instability, according to the artist. Since then, the artwork has evolved into new connotations as new crises and conflicts emerge, such as the pandemic’s collective isolation and susceptibility, and, most recently, the war between Russia and Ukraine.

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The eye-catching scene of the ‘Arch’ outside the National Museum_©Jean Lapin

Ai Weiwei, a prolific artist as well as social activist, has been a strong advocate of human rights as well as a critic of China’s fast economic progress. Ai received recognition in 2010 for his exhibit of 100 million hand-painted ceramic “sunflower seeds” made by 1,600 Chinese artists at Tate Modern in London. While his work has earned international acclaim, the usually controversial and subversive aspects of his work have resulted in different types of persecution from Chinese authorities. Ai Weiwei was detained in 2011 at Beijing’s Capital International Airport for “economic offences.”  He was detained and imprisoned without prosecution for 81 days, prompting worldwide outrage. His passport was taken away, and he was imprisoned in China until 2015. The artist presently resides in Portugal and is the featured artist for Passages Insolites, a public art tour in Québec, Canada, this year.

“The function of art is not about right or wrong, but rather to offer an opportunity for people to make their judgment.”-Ai Wei Wei

He has openly criticized the Chinese government’s attitude toward human rights and democratic principles as an activist. He looked into government corruption including cover-ups, namely the Sichuan school corruption scandal that erupted after the collapse of “tofu-dreg schools” in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Ai Weiwei rose to prominence as a key figure in Chinese cultural evolution, a creator of Chinese modernism, and one of the country’s most outspoken political commentators.

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The 12-meter-tall artwork strives to establish a globalized society_©Jean Lapin

Ai Weiwei’s sculptures, photography, and public works embody his political convictions as well as his poetry. In doing so, he employs Chinese art styles to depict Chinese societal and political themes. Ai Weiwei is a cultural personality of his generation who sets an example of free speech in China and throughout the world.Ai Weiwei is a contemporary Chinese artist, documentary maker, and activist who was raised in the much distant northwest of the nation due to the tough living conditions brought on by his father’s exile. Weiwei gained notoriety as a significant player in the development of Chinese culture, the father of Chinese modernism, and as one of the nation’s most vocal political pundits. Ai Weiwei’s Arch aims to highlight our ability to adapt. When Arch was on exhibit at Washington Square Park from October 2017 to February 2018, the tactile impact was felt firsthand. Following the conclusion of that project, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio created a panel to investigate public monuments around the city to identify “symbols of hatred.” Weiwei has demonstrated that everything it takes to initiate change is one initial move.

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View of artwork from Streets of Stockholm_©Jean Lapin

For the first time since World Conflict II, we are living in tumultuous times in which war threatens the fundamental foundations of European civilization, climate change stands to bring greater dislocation and migration, and Europe’s unrestricted Schengen zone is being reviewed. Presently, 1.7 million Ukrainians already left their conflict-torn nation, with the EU expecting that figure to rise to 4 million. Global catastrophes like the Covid-19 epidemic, global warming, and continuous armed conflicts could act as an incentive to build a more sustainable, secure, and inclusive society. We must welcome migrants and those escaping danger with open arms now more than ever. Ai Weiwei’s Arch is a campaign for just that. To promote and safeguard free speech, it is essential to give Arch a chance to appear in public. Public art enhances awareness and encourages spectators to reconsider their assumptions, in addition to improving a community’s visual quality. 

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From its center, two silhouette cutouts arise_©Jean Lapin

A deeper sense of cooperation is made possible when more people have access to art and see themselves represented in social areas thanks to the strength of connection as well as representation. These exhibits will celebrate creativity and innovative thinking while encouraging interaction and discussion among local communities. Throughout his creative career, the Chinese artist has sounded the alarm on political and humanitarian issues. Additionally, he has consistently challenged preconceived notions about the role of art in the community and how creative voices may and ought to be mobilized in a group effort to make a change in the world. In a time of political polarization, an unexpected refugee crisis, and worldwide waves of isolationist sentiment, Arch offers a strong as well as a thought-provoking statement that represents the unpredictability of the periods we survive in and the necessity for brilliant minds all around the globe to encounter the challenge of change.

Exhibiting the Arch is essential for the growth and defense of free expression. The internationally renowned artist asserts that the purpose of art is to provide a platform for individuals to form their own opinions, rather than to address issues of right or wrong.During the annual conference of Brilliant Minds in Stockholm, which was a singular meeting of motivational speakers to promote Swedish principles abroad and inspire European founders with ground-breaking concepts to transform the globe more sustainable, imaginative, and inclusive, Arch was presented.

Ai Weiwei Arch 2017_©Jean Lapin

The release of Arch by Brilliant Minds in Sweden, which is ranked first on the European Innovation Scoreboard, marks an important turning point in the Nordic country’s growing importance in global art and culture. The installation of Arch in Stockholm will continue to celebrate the value of public art as a conversation starter, encouraging everyone to consider the conflicts of the times we live in and the duty each of us has to work toward. The installation of Arch in Stockholm will continue to celebrate the value of public art as a conversation starter, provoking us all to consider the paradoxes of the times we live in and the duty it is for each of us to contribute to a better world. Weiwei, a refugee too, pays tribute to liberty with his 40-foot-tall structure made of polished stainless steel that resembles a birdcage and uses human figures in shadow to represent the unrestricted movement of all people and appeal for a boundless world.

References:

  1. Editor. (2022, August 06). Arch, art installation in Stockholm. Retrieved from Arquitecturaviva: https://arquitecturaviva.com/works/the-arch-en-estocolmo
  2. Indovance, M. D. (2022, July 19). Ai Weiwei’s ‘Arch’ Unveils in Central Stockholm. Retrieved from Indovance: https://www.indovance.com/knowledge-center/ai-weiweis-arch-unveils-in-central-stockholm/
  3. Westall, M. (2022, June 15). AI WEIWEI’S ARCH UNVEILED IN STOCKHOLM OUTSIDE THE NATIONALMUSUEM. Retrieved from FAD Magazine: https://fadmagazine.com/2022/06/15/ai-weiweis-arch-unveiled-in-stockholm-outside-the-nationalmusuem/
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An aspiring urbanist, who is trying to explore herself through architectural writing currently, she believes that the remedy for a healthy planet begins with designing responsive spaces. She is an optimistic, determined and curious person who is always eager to learn and improve her skills.

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