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Ai Weiwei

Press release

Ai Weiwei – Roots

One tree another tree
Each standing alone and erect
The wind and air
Tell their distance apart

But beneath the cover of earth
Their roots reach out
And at depths that cannot be seen
The roots of the trees intertwine

— Ai Qing, Trees, spring 1940

neugerriemschneider is pleased to present our third solo exhibition with Ai Weiwei. At the core of Roots are seven large-scale iron sculptures, each of which are casts from long- deceased roots of pequi trees (Caryocar coriaceum) native to Brazil. During the preparation of his comprehensive survey exhibition Raiz at the OCA Pavilion in São Paulo (2018), Ai Weiwei visited the rainforests of Bahia and came across monumentally sized roots and trunks, some of which are over a century old, of the endangered pequi tree. Along with a team of local and Chinese craftspeople, the artist fused these root fragments to form sculptural compositions. The resultant wooden sculptures were first shown in the OCA exhibition, with their molds then being transported to China to create iron castings. These hand-cast iron hybrids of nature and culture represent a society uprooted by industrialization and modernization, illustrating how environmental degradation can follow in the wake of progress.

The poem Trees by Ai Weiwei’s father Ai Qing (1910-1996) served as inspiration for these at once abstract and figural sculptures. The wealth of detail in these metal casts mirrors Ai Weiwei’s deep reverence for nature, which first manifested itself during his childhood while in exile in the Gobi Desert, where he would take dried tree roots and arrange them into small sculptures. His cast iron Roots are reminiscent of archaic beasts or fantastical creatures and mirror the timelessness of South American forests, simultaneously hinting at the contemplation of natural phenomena that is deeply engrained in Chinese culture.

In collaboration with Lisson Gallery, this new group of Ai Weiwei’s Roots is shown for the first time at neugerriemschneider (September 7 to October 19, 2019) and in London (October 2 to November 2, 2019). A comprehensive catalogue accompanies Roots, featuring texts by Marcello Dantas, Robert Macfarlane, Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, Peter-Klaus Schuster, Günther Vogt, Christina Yu Yu and others exploring anthropology, sociology, Chinese and European history, botany and ecology.

Ai Weiwei (b. 1957, Beijing, China) was a founding member of the Chinese avant-garde group Stars in Beijing and later moved to New York in the 1980s. Upon his return to China in 1993, he began conceptually focusing on China’s cultural heritage and quickly became a leading figure in Chinese contemporary art and architecture. His work has been shown internationally since the mid-2000s. By 2008 he began to experience increasing repression by the Chinese government, ultimately resulting in 81 days of incarceration. An artist, filmmaker, author and highly influential political activist, Ai Weiwei moved to Berlin in 2015 where he currently lives and works.

Ai Weiwei has exhibited extensively at museums and institutions worldwide. Solo exhibitions and special projects devoted to his work include Ai Weiwei: Bare Life, Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis (2019, upcoming); Ai Weiwei, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen, Dusseldorf (2019); Raiz - Ai Weiwei, OCA – Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo (2018); Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, Public Art Fund, New York (2017); Ai Weiwei On Porcelain, Sabanci University Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul (2017); Ai Weiwei: Maybe, Maybe Not, Israel Museum, Jerusalem (2017); Ai Weiwei. Law of the Journey, The National Gallery in Prague, Prague (2017); Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei, Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2016, 2015); Ai Weiwei, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2015); @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, Alcatraz, San Francisco (2014); Ai Weiwei - Evidence, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2014); Ai Weiwei: According to What?, Brooklyn Museum, New York, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington (2014-2012); Ai Weiwei, Romuald Karmakar, Santu Mofokeng, Dayanita Singh. German Pavillon, 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, 55. Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte, Venice (2013); The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London (2010); So sorry, Haus der Kunst, Munich, (2009); dOCUMENTA 12, Kassel (2007) and Ai Weiwei, Kunsthalle Bern, Bern (2004).

For further press information and imagery, please contact Jan Salewski at neugerriemschneider: +49 30 288 77277 or