Ai Weiwei, Safe Passage, 2016, Installation view (2016) at the Berlin Konzerthaus
Credit: Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio, Berlin

The iconic and unapologetic Chinese artist, provocateur and activist Ai Weiwei will present a new work exploring the worldwide refugee crisis as part of the 21st Biennale of Sydney. 

Weiwei, himself a political refugee under near constant government surveillance, is one of around 70 artists who have been invited to take part in next year’s Biennale of Sydney, an event held every two years at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Carriageworks and on Cockatoo Island in the middle of Sydney Harbour. The 45th iteration of the event has been curated by Artistic Director Mami Kataoka, who has worked as chief curator of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo since 2003, and will be presented over twelve weeks from March 16 until June 11, 2018.

Kataoka promises the event will include major new commissions and recent work by “some of the most exciting contemporary artists of our time” from Australia and around the world, including Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Melbourne-based artist Brook Andrew and the British artist duo Semiconductor. Other Australian artists revealed to date include Yasmin Smith, who will be developing a site-specific ceramic work, and painter George Tjungurrayi.

“Next year’s Biennale will explore multiple viewpoints in search of a state of equilibrium,” Kataoka said. “With a holistic view, the 21st Biennale of Sydney will also seek in-depth engagement with individuals and communities while exploring a range of perspectives and meanings of abstractions. Rather than focusing on a specific concept or theme, the exhibition will suggest multi-layered perspectives of the world and its histories simultaneously.”

Kataoka will announce the exhibition’s title and themes in July; the remaining artists and new venues for exhibition are expected to be announced in October.

Whatever the outcome on that front, Kataoka promises her first local curatorial venture will entail “a journey; a walk through microcosms of the world today based on the stratum of history, human knowledge, emotions, desires and beliefs, as well as the mysteries of natural phenomena and the whole of the universe.”

Tile and cover image: Ai Weiwei, Forever Bicycles, 2011, Installation view (2011) at Taipei Fine Arts Museum/Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio, Berlin