post-title Ai Weiwei | Know thyself | neugerriemschneider | 14.09.2023-30.03.2024

Ai Weiwei | Know thyself | neugerriemschneider | 14.09.2023-30.03.2024

Ai Weiwei | Know thyself | neugerriemschneider | 14.09.2023-30.03.2024

Ai Weiwei | Know thyself | neugerriemschneider | 14.09.2023-30.03.2024

until 30.03. | #3982ARTatBerlin | neugerriemschneider (Christinenstraße) presents from 16. September 2023 the exhibition “Know thyself” of the artist Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei’s fifth solo exhibition at neugerriemschneider, opening at Christinenstraße to coincide with Berlin Art Week and the autumn edition of Gallery Weekend Berlin. Know thyself brings together new works from his ongoing series in which he recontextualises art historical and contemporary images by deconstructing and reconstructing them with Lego bricks. With this medium, as playful as it is immediate, spanning both generations and countries, Ai undertakes a critical analysis of the Western cultural canon, infused with references to his own artistic career.

In the course of his career, Ai has repeatedly created Lego works in order to question the criteria of pictorial composition and production through the manual processing of hundreds of thousands of building blocks. He successively expanded his investigation of the representational and conceptual possibilities of this medium to develop replicas of iconic artworks and other well-known images. Following Marcel Duchamp and his legacy of the readymade, Ai uses a mass-produced material to adapt existing motifs, which he often transposes into his personal social and political context through modifications. In doing so, the angular stones allude to pixels that make up today’s digital, mass-produced and globally distributed images.

In his presentation at neugerriemschneider, Ai combines eight such interpretations in Lego. The origin of the work Know Thyself (2022), to which the exhibition title refers, is a mosaic from the first century AD that was discovered on the Via Appia in Rome and is now on display in the city’s Diocletian Baths. It shows a vanitas depiction emblazoned with the injunction “Know Thyself” in Greek. Ai draws on this ancient work to existentially reflect on the complex intersections and contrasts between past and present represented by the analogies and differences between mosaic and Lego.

Pollock in Black (2020), a definitive work for Ai’s approach to modified reproduction, is based on Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950 (1950). The gestural, almost calligraphic application of oil and enamel paints of the original is here transformed almost on a 1:1 scale into a binary black and white, while the beige of the canvas is replaced by grey Lego bricks. Pollock’s Drip painting is emblematic of Ai’s intense reception of post-war US art during his formative period in New York from 1983 to 1993.

The Last Supper in Green, The Last Supper in Blue, The Last Supper in Pink and The Last Supper in White (all 2022) refer to Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Last Supper mural in the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The different colour versions make a connection to Andy Warhol’s silkscreen prints of the motif, which correspond to Ai’s notion of art as practice, which is closely intertwined with her history and the contemporary media landscape. Taking up the art historical tradition of the self-portrait within a larger, often sacred composition, Ai depicts himself as Judas in all four paintings, his seemingly sardonic laughter alluding to the disruptive quality of his work and the resulting tense relationship with the Chinese government.

This engagement with key works also characterises Water Lilies #2 (2022). The work refers to one of the monumental paintings that Claude Monet created in the first half of the 20th century of motifs from his picturesque garden. Over 15 metres wide, the Lego painting encompasses the viewer on three walls, creating a contemplative effect on the one hand and highlighting its details on the other. In the right half of the picture, the colour-changed composition is reinterpreted geographically and temporally through an autobiographical allusion: A dark field depicts the entrance to the underground dwelling where Ai lived as a child with his father, the poet Ai Qing, after the latter was exiled in the late 1950s.

With Nord Stream (2022), Ai turns away from recreating canonical works in favour of a contemporary news image depicting the result of the exploded Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline – a white gushing expanse in the blue sea, discharging more than two decades of heated international relations. The work references the artist’s longstanding political engagement by expanding on his earlier preoccupation with migration to Europe via dangerous waterways and questioning the weighting of divergent aspirations – international concern for human lives or securing resources and capital. At the same time, the pixel-like representation possesses an image quality that oscillates between abstraction and figuration and is related to the exhibited homages to Pollock and Monet.

Works by Ai Weiwei (b. 1957) have been included in solo exhibitions at international museums and institutions, including Design Museum, London (2023); Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice (2022); Albertina Modern, Vienna (2022); Serralves, Porto (2021); Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis (2019); Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf (2019); Oca – Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo (2018); Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Istanbul (2017); Israel Museum, Jerusalem (2017); National Gallery Prague, Prague (2017); The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (2016); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2015); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2015); Alcatraz, San Francisco (2014); Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2014); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2014); Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2013); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D. C. (2012); German Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, Venice (2013); Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London (2010); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2009); documenta 12, Kassel (2007) and Kunsthalle Bern, Bern (2004).

Location: Christinenstraße

Opening: Wednesday, 13. September 2023, 6 pm – 9 pm

Exhibition dates : Thursday, 14. September until Saturday, 30. March 2023

To the Gallery



Image caption: Courtesy of neugerriemschnieder

Exhibition Ai Weiwei – Galerie neugerriemschneider | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin | Contemporary Art | Ausstellungen Berlin Galerien | ART at Berlin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Masterpieces in Berlin

You can visit numerous impressive artistic masterpieces from all eras in Berlin’s museums. But where exactly will you find works by Albrecht Dürer, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Sandro Botticelli, Peter Paul Rubens or the world-famous Nefertiti? We will introduce you to the most impressive artistic masterpieces in Berlin. And can lead you to the respective museum with only one click. So that you can personally experience and enjoy your favourite masterpiece live.

Send this to a friend