A Day of Art:Warhol and WeiWei Exhibition in Photographs.

I recently spent a day that I won’t forget.

It was  beautiful sunny Friday in Melbourne and I had a whole day to myself, to explore and do what ever I want.

I decided it was finally time to go and see the Andy Warhol and Ai WeiWei exhibition in the National Gallery of Victoria, which I have seen advertised since I moved to Melbourne.

In case you aren’t familiar with Andy Warhol and Ai WeiWei, which if I’m honest I wasn’t entirely familiar with Ai WeiWei before I went, here is some information.

Andy Warhol was an American artist, he was the leading figure within the art movement known as pop art. Within his work Warhol explores the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement.

Warhol art uses many forms of media, hand drawings, paintings,  printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film, and music. He wrote books and was manager and producer of the Velvet Underground.

Basically, he’s pretty damn cool.

Ai WeiWei is a Chinese contemporary artist and activist. WeiWei has worked on projects as big as the Beijing Olympic stadium as well as being heavily critical of the Chinese government where he has spent time in jail for his activism.

So now we are all slightly familiar I will tell you about my day.

I arrived there and started to make my way around the exhibition. One massive thing that struck me, and everyone there was the huge art display of bikes.

All photographs of the art were taken by myself.

These are Ai WeiWei’s Forever Bicycles, there is around 1500 bicycles piled high in the entrance to the exhibition, and what an entrance it is.

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The effect is pretty mesmerizing.

From there I entered the exhibition,  I’ve decided I won’t go on about my visit, but what I will do is share my favourite pieces, and why I liked them so much. I will also share some amazing art that I feel everyone will appreciate.

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This was the first major Ai WeiWei piece I saw. I really love it. It is named Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn where he is seen dropping an antique vase and smashing it. This piece began his interest in antique objects but also conveys his views on cultural values and social history. I loved this piece firstly due to the size of it, as well as the three part images, but mostly due to the shocking statement clearly showing his views of Chinese history.
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This is one piece I have seen over the years and has always interested me. The original piece consists of 32 canvases all with a variation of flavour. From here I made my way around Warhols major pieces and really do love the aspect of repetition he uses in his work.

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Warhol, if you haven’t yet noticed, liked to use well known products in his pieces. Now I’m not an art critic or anything. But, to me I feel it can mean anything can be art. To me this can be taken two ways, in a good way as in any household item if looked at in a certain way can be art. On the other hand, why is loads of soup tins art?! You see them all the time at home, or in the supermarket. Just because they sell, does that make it art?

Does that make sense?

I’ve had this debate many a time.

In my opinion I really love pop art and contemporary art in general. Don’t get me wrong I can appreciate art such as Gothic or Renaissance but I find contemporary more interesting to me.

I personally love the idea that anything can be art. Warhol was the first person to do really this, I particularly love his use of bright and bold colours, as well as repetition. Things that are so simple, yet so effective. 

Warhol was  fascinated with consumerism and advertising and how it shaped society.

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Warhol is well known for his silk screen photographs of famous celebrities, many taken originally on just a Polaroid camera.

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This piece really stuck with me, it is called Electric Chair. Warhol famously said something along the lines of ‘You’d be surprised how many people want to hang an electric chair on their living room wall. Especially if the background colour matches the drapes’.
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So you’ve heard of the term ’15 minutes of fame’, well did you know Andy Warhol coined the term? Well I didn’t, so now we all do!

I have shared a lot about Andy Warhol,  so here are some more amazing Ai WeiWei pieces.

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This piece is called With Flowers. Ai WeiWei had his passport taken off him by the Chinese government therefore preventing him leaving the country. So for 600 days (may not be exact days) he arranged flowers in the basket of his bike outside his studio and documented it. Two years later, then four years into enduring his confinement he was given his passport back. What I love is no matter how small this act of defiance was, he persevered and won.

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These white porcelain flowers are part of the Flowers for Freedom movement. Symbolizing those who live in restricted living conditions due to their fight for freedom of speech or human rights.

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This is yet another Ai WeiWei piece that struck me and has stuck with me to this day.

The artwork was part of a exhibition called ‘Fuck Off’. In the variety of artwork he gives the middle finger to a number of famous landmarks or buildings, such as the Colosseum, the Louvre, the Opera house, etc.

I will let you look it up and make your own ideas of what you think of it.

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This is WeiWei’s wife lifting up her skirt in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. At this place in 1989 Chinese soldiers shot dead thousands of people, who were out protesting pro democracy. To me this is a powerful photograph.

There is a hell of a lot more art that I saw, but I want to keep something to your imagination.

The final section of the exhibition which I think a lot of you will appreciate,  was called Studio Cats.

Although this is advertised for kids and families, lets be honest, everyone can enjoy it.

This part of the exhibition looks at the creative connection between both artists and their love for, you guessed it, cats. 

So here is something you may not know, both Andy Warhol and Ai WeiWei love cats.

Warhol was known to live with his mother and 25 cats, all named Sam, apart from one, who was called Hester.

Ai WeiWei has a very similar relationship with cats, there’s even tumblr pages dedicated to his cats. Many of WeiWei’s cats are strays who roam free and come in and out of his home, which he frequently documents on social media.

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What I love about going to a new exhibition about something I didn’t fully know about before is learning little things like this.

It feels more personal.

It also was a really fun section for everyone to play around in and be interactive.

So those were my favourite pieces, a little background on them and a few reasons why I loved them.

Hopefully you have enjoyed the art that I enjoyed so much. Some of you may get the chance to go and see this exhibition or one similar (you should go if you can!) but many may not get a chance, therefore I hope you enjoy the work and some information.

Maybe you enjoyed less writing and more photographs.

Either way I hope that if an art exhibition near you comes up this may inspire you to go, even if like me you didn’t know a whole lot about some of the artists before.

Overall I hope you too can really appreciate the great artists that Andy Warhol and Ai WeiWei are.  I came out of the exhibition with a new love for an artist I didn’t know before, and knowing a lot more about one I already loved.

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‘Til next time. Go and enjoy some art! 🎨

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Becca

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3 Comments

  • I felt exactly the same about this exhibition! I went a couple of months ago in Melbourne and didn’t know anything really about Ai Wei Wei beforehand but left completely fascinated with him and his work. Great post!

    • Thank you (: yes I am the same, I am now following his work and looking him up! I love finding new and interesting things when you least expect it!

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