Exhibition: Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei at NGV

Lovers of contemporary art and culture are in their element at the National Gallery of Victoria with the staging of  Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei at National Gallery of Victoria exhibition Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, 11 December 2015 –24 April 2016 Ai Weiwei artwork © Ai Weiwei. Photo: John Gollings

Ai Weiwei at National Gallery of Victoria exhibition Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, 11 December 2015 –24 April 2016 Ai Weiwei artwork © Ai Weiwei. Photo: John Gollings

The exhibition features more than 300 works from the two artists. There’s a wide representation of paintings, sculpture, film, photography, publishing and social media, immersive installations and new commissions.

Developed by the NGV and The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh with the participation of Ai Weiwei, the exhibition explores the significant influence of the two artists on modern art and contemporary life, focussing on the parallels, intersections and points of difference between their practices.

Not having a great knowledge of contemporary art, the exhibition proved a great learning experience for me.

Installation view of the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, 11 December 2015 –24 April 2016. Andy Warhol artwork © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS, New York. Administered by Viscopy, Sydney; Ai Weiwei artwork © Ai Weiwei. Photo: Brooke Holm

Installation view of the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, 11 December 2015 –24 April 2016. Andy Warhol artwork © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS, New York. Administered by Viscopy, Sydney; Ai Weiwei artwork © Ai Weiwei. Photo: Brooke Holm.

I discovered for example, that each of the artists is recognised for their unique approach to notions of artistic value and studio production. Warhol’s Factory was legendary for bringing together artists and poets, film-makers and musicians, bohemians and intellectuals, ‘drag queens’, ‘superstars’ and socialites, and for the serial-production of silkscreen paintings, films, television, music and publishing.

The studio of Ai Weiwei is renowned for its interdisciplinary approach, post-industrial modes of production, engagement with teams of assistants and collaborators, and strategic use of communications technology and social media.

Installation view of the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, 11 December 2015 –24 April 2016. Andy Warhol artwork © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS, New York. Administered by Viscopy, Sydney. Photo: John Gollings

Installation view of the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, 11 December 2015 –24 April 2016. Andy Warhol artwork © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS, New York. Administered by Viscopy, Sydney. Photo: John Gollings

According to the NGV both artists have been equally critical in redefining the role of ‘the artist’ – as impresario, cultural producer, activist and brand – and both are known for their keen observation and documentation of contemporary society and everyday life.

More than 200 of Warhol’s most celebrated works are featured in the exhibitions including paintings and silk-screens such as Campbell’s Soup, Electric Chair, Mao, Elvis and Flowers. There are also celebrity portraits, sculpture and installations, and an extensive selection of film, music and publishing, including previously unseen works.

Installation view of the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, 11 December 2015 –24 April 2016. Ai Weiwei artwork © Ai Weiwei. Photo: Brooke Holm

Installation view of the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, 11 December 2015 –24 April 2016. Ai Weiwei artwork © Ai Weiwei. Photo: Brooke Holm

The exhibition also marks the most comprehensive representation of Weiwei’s work in Australia and features a number of new commissions including an installation from the Forever bicycles series, created using nearly 1500 bicycles, which takes pride of place in the gallery’s foyer.

There’s also a major five metre-tall work from Ai’s Chandelier series of crystal and light; Blossom 2015, a spectacular installation in the form of a large bed of thousands of delicate, intricately designed white porcelain flowers; and a room-scale installation featuring portraits of Australian advocates for human rights and freedom of speech and information.

Ai Weiwei at National Gallery of Victoria exhibition Andy Warhol. Ai Weiwei , 11 December 2015 - –24 April 2016. Ai Weiwei artwork © Ai Weiwei. Image John Gollings.

Ai Weiwei at National Gallery of Victoria exhibition Andy Warhol. Ai Weiwei , 11 December 2015 –24 April 2016. Ai Weiwei artwork © Ai Weiwei. Image John Gollings.

The exhibition has 10 themesIcons & iconoclasm, New York / Beijing, The studio: Factory & FAKE, Duchamp & the readymade, Flowers, Life on film, Celebrity & social media, Cultural revolutions, The individual & the state, and Narrative, myth & memory which feature work by both artists.

While I didn’t necessary understand the philosophy or `the art’ behind some of the exhibits, I certainly left the exhibition far more educated about both men and their work.

Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei is on display at NGV International ( 180 St Kilda Road Melbourne) until 24 April 2016. Tickets cost $26 adults, $22.50 concession, $10 for children and $65 for two adults and three children.

*Jenny Burns visited Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei as a guest of the Gallery.

Other exhibitions currently on show in Melbourne include Manifesto at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

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