Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens:
Natural State

Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens:
Natural State

January 27 August 20, 2017

This landmark exhibition will feature internationally renowned artist and activist Ai Weiwei.

Opening on January 27, 2017, Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State is his first show in the upper Midwest as well as the first of its kind for the artist at a botanical garden or sculpture park.

Ai Weiwei has emerged as one of the definitive cultural voices of the 21st century.  

Overview

This landmark exhibition, presented by the Daniel & Pamella DeVos Foundation, will feature internationally renowned artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Opening on January 27, 2017, Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State is his first show in the upper Midwest as well as the first of its kind for the artist at a botanical garden or sculpture park. Ai Weiwei has emerged as one of the definitive cultural voices of the 21st century. Known to work in a wide variety of contexts and scale, his ability to transform materials to share his ideas, concerns and vision has given rise to a critically acclaimed and widely appreciated body of work. Iconic among recent work is his colossal Iron Tree, acquired and installed in 2015 in honor of Meijer Gardens' 20th anniversary. 

This exhibition has been organized by the artist and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park with the support of Lisson Gallery. 

Learn more about Ai Weiwei on his website, or by following him on Instagram and Twitter.

Artist and activist Ai Weiwei welcomes visitors to 'Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State' in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Who is Ai Weiwei?

Learn more about the artist and activist in these articles from Seasons and in this chat with Chief Curator Joseph Becherer on Soundcloud:

Who Is Ai Weiwei? 
Artist and activist Ai Weiwei is among the most inspiring and influential cultural figures in the world today. In the last few years, his image and images of his work have been featured on the cover of every major art publication and most magazines and newspapers across the globe. In recent months, his exhibitions have shattered attendance records in London, Paris, Helsinki and San Francisco. In January, his work is coming to Grand Rapids in a highly unique exhibition designed especially for Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. But, one might ask, who is Ai Weiwei?

Ai Weiwei, Conceptual Master:
Ai Weiwei is an artist overflowing with ideas, with concepts. There is much he wants to express regarding history and humanity, cultural and personal injustice, freedom of speech and human dignity. In fact, his ideas are so unique and important, he is most frequently viewed as a conceptual artist. To realize his concepts, he uses a broad and diverse array of objects that help convey his thinking. Ancient vessels or furniture become symbolic of Chinese history; the use of backpacks are stand-ins for children; traditionally crafted kites become symbols of freedom.

 Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State:
Seemingly contrasting themes of tradition and modernity are critical to the work of Ai Weiwei. The Chinese-born artist and activist is internationally heralded as one of the most important cultural figures of our time. He champions free speech and global human rights through his sculpture, installations, film, photography—and his widely followed social media presence. In the last year alone, he has mounted critically acclaimed exhibitions in London, Helsinki, Paris, Melbourne, Florence and New York. His work, through a neverending variety of materials and forms, communicates important concepts about his life, his homeland and the world.

Ai Weiwei: Iron Tree:
Standing at more than 22 feet tall and measuring more than 22 feet across, Iron Tree, 2013, is the artist’s largest and most complex outdoor sculpture to date. Meijer Gardens worked in collaboration with the artist, his Beijing studio and foundry, and London gallery to bring this colossal work to Meijer Gardens. Iron Tree was dedicated in the Sculpture Park on April 20, 2015.

Education

Join us for special programming focusing on the work of Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. One of the most inspiring and influential cultural figures in the world today, Ai Weiwei’s art tackles issues of injustice, freedom of speech, and human rights. 

Grades 5 - 12: Poetry Program
Students will participate in a 30-minute poetry writing workshop led by a Grand Rapids poet, a 30-minute docent-led tour of Ai Weiwei’s work, and a 30-minute creative writing session inspired by the exhibition. Clipboards, pencils, and paper will be provided. 

Program sessions are offered at 9:30 and 11:30 am on February 7, 9, 14, 16, 21, and 23. Limited space available – please register early. A minimum of two weeks’ preregistration is required. $6 per student. Registration information can be found HERE.

Grades 7 - 12 Sculpture Exhibition Tour
This docent-led tour provides a 30-minute introduction to the work of Ai Weiwei. The exhibition Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State is the first of its kind at a botanical garden or sculpture park.
Tour participants will learn about Ai Weiwei as a conceptual artist and consider the contrast between tradition and modernity in his work.
A minimum of two weeks’ preregistration is required.  $5 per student. Registration information can be found HERE.

Self-led Experiences
A minimum of two weeks’ preregistration is required to receive the reduced group admission rate of $4 per student.  Registration information can be found HERE.
Discovery Tour
The Discovery Tour is an activity sheet designed to encourage careful observation and critical thinking as students explore Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State. Please request the Discovery Tour when registering for your field trip.
Exhibition Guide
A gallery guide offering interpretive information about Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State.  Please request the Exhibition Guide when registering for your field trip, or stop by the Information Desk at the start of your visit.

Media

Please contact John VanderHaagen for up-to-the minute information, to schedule interviews and to obtain high resolution images / credit information.

John VanderHaagen
Public Relations Manager
(616) 975-3155
jvanderhaagen@meijergardens.org

Events

January 26, 2017 6:00 pm

Member Opening: Ai Weiwei

Don’t miss the member opening for this landmark exhibition from Ai Weiwei.

March 7, 2017 7:00 pm

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Film screening and discussion

April 25, 2017 7:00 pm

Conceptual Art: What’s the Big Idea?

All good art, in some way, is based on a sound idea.

May 21, 2017 2:00 pm

The Artist as Activist

Artists do not exist in a vacuum—they are part of a society. 

July 8, 2017 10:30 am

Summer Saturday Sculpture Walks

Join working artists and art historians on a walking tour of Ai Weiwei’s Iron Tree and selected artwork in the Sculpture Park.

Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor

Daniel & Pamella DeVos Foundation

With Appreciation

The Meijer Foundation

Additional Support

Mary Ann Keeler
Lisson Gallery
The Padnos Family
The Louis & Helen Padnos Foundation
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Foundation
Botanic and Sculpture Societies of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts

This exhibition has been organized by the artist and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park with the support of Lisson Gallery.