Michael Janssen Singapore is pleased to present the first solo exhibition by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in Southeast Asia. The exhibition is entitled Baby Formula and opens on Friday, August 23.
Following China’s 2008 melamine milk scandal, thousands of children who consumed the tainted milk fell ill and some even met their death. Mainlanders concerned about the safety of Chinese-produced baby milk formula resorted to purchasing milk powder from overseas and bringing it back to China. Subsequently, governments in Hong Kong and across Europe reacted to this surge in demand by enforcing restrictions on the number of cans mainlanders could purchase overseas. This scandal personally affected the artist, whose son was 4 years old at the time.
Determined to initiate positive change and undeterred by the restrictions that the Chinese authorities had enforced, Ai Weiwei used Twitter to reach out to an even wider audience. For his exhibition in Singapore, Ai Weiwei has developed two series of prints selected from his tweets surrounding the safety of the mainland-produced baby milk formula. These prints will be shown together with an 860 square-foot installation – a map of China composed of more than 1,800 cans of baby formula.
By subverting instituted notions of culture and the role and form of art, Ai Weiwei’s works question the value of the status quo. Drawing from Andy Warhol’s philosophy that one must change things oneself; Ai Weiwei’s art is a force for change. During his twelve years spent in New York, Ai Weiwei’s exposure to Marcel Duchamp’s work was crucial in his artistic development; it shifted his perspective towards one that recognized art as a gesture, which could assume any form the artist chose. Consequently, many of the materials he uses are recycled in order to reflect that people are not free to do what they want, namely to use their imagination.
Creating artistic statements that challenge socio-political norms, Ai Weiwei is one of China’s leading artists. Like great innovators before him, Ai Weiwei is at times criticized in the same measure that he is honored. Ai Weiwei is not only an artist, but also a curator, designer, architect, publisher, Web blogger, and a compass for an entire generation of artists.
Ai Weiwei, Baby Formula, Installation view, 2013, Galerie Michael Janssen Singapore