Leah Sikes

Designing on the Danube

Ai Wei Wei - 21er Haus & Schloß Belvedere

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The Sunday before my parents left Vienna, we (my parents, Mollie and I) made the trek up to Schloß Belvedere to see the famous Kiss painting by Klimt. While walking through the palace, one of the coolest things (in my opinion) was this installation in the stairway.

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Also while walking around the palace, I saw several posters for an Ai Wei Wei exhibit at the 21er Haus, starting not long after my Belvedere trip - obviously I had to go. I had watched a documentary on Ai Wei Wei in an art history class.

Come to find out, the installation in the palace was a part of that exhibit, though I didn't know it at the time. He also had an exhibit outside the palace to commemorate lost sculptures of the Chinese Zodiac, which had been destroyed (decapitated, to be exact) and lost. Since then, they have found several of the lost heads, but others are still missing. Wei Wei placed his own take on the Chinese Zodiac sculptures' heads on stakes to show the destruction and bring attention to the lost ones. Obviously, we took photos in front of our own Zodiac signs.

Not pictured is an installment in the pond: lotus flowers made out of five life jackets, in the shape of an f (a motif found in Wei Wei's work). Each "flower" on a floating platform was made of five outstretched life jackets, representing the Syrian refugees journey to safety. 

After my parents (and Mollie) departed, I looked up the 21er Haus times and found that they stayed open late on Wednesday nights. So, one night after work, I made plans to go see his exhibit. The 21er Haus is just down the street from the Belvedere, one tram stop up. The museum was small, and the building was originally built for the 1954 Worlds Fair in Brussels. It was intended to be torn down, but it was decided that it would be moved to Vienna and used as a modern art museum (seems like a trend - that's how the Eiffel Tower was built too).

The special exhibit, accompanied by a video interview with Ai Wei Wei, was centered around tea, including houses made of tea leaves (which smelled nice), broken tea spouts and a recreation of the Wang Family Ancestral Hall. His exhibit was called translocation - transformation.

It was really a treat to be able to see the work of Ai Wei Wei in person after learning about him in class. I find I always have a better appreciation for artists and their work when I know more about the person and their story.

Leah SikesComment