by Vatsala SethiDec 26, 2022
Contemporary artist, documentarian, and activist from China, Ai Weiwei grew up in the far northwest of the country, where his father's exile had left him in difficult living circumstances. Weiwei rose to prominence as a key figure in Chinese cultural development, an architect of Chinese modernism, and one of the country's most outspoken political commentators. As an activist, he has openly criticised the Chinese government's attitude towards democracy and human rights.
Recently, Weiwei and the Brilliant Minds Foundation revealed Arch, one of the artist’s most significant works, in Stockholm, Sweden. Arch is located outside the city's National Museum and is the first in a new series of public cultural exhibits that Brilliant Minds has committed to supporting in Stockholm over the next five years, celebrating innovation and creativity while inspiring connection and conversation among local communities.
The Chinese artist has raised the alarm about political and humanitarian concerns throughout his artistic career. He has also persistently questioned the preconceptions about the place of art in society and the way creative voices can and should be mobilised in a collective endeavour to make a difference in the global arena. Arch offers a powerful and thought-provoking message that reflects the uncertainty of the times we live in and the need for brilliant minds around the world to meet the challenge of change in a time of political divisiveness, an unprecedented refugee crisis, and global waves of isolationist sentiment.
Making Arch visible is vitally necessary for the development and protection of free expression. “The function of art is not about right or wrong, but rather to offer an opportunity for people to make their own judgment,” says the globally acclaimed artist.
Arch was unveiled during Brilliant Minds' annual conference in Stockholm, a one-of-a-kind gathering of inspirational speakers to highlight Swedish ideals abroad and encourage European founders with revolutionary ideas to make the world more sustainable, creative, and inclusive. The debut of Arch by Brilliant Minds in Sweden, the leading country on the European Innovation Scoreboard, represents a significant milestone in the Scandinavian nation’s rising relevance in worldwide art and culture. Arch's placement in Stockholm, which was last seen in 2017 within New York's iconic Washington Square Park monument, will continue to celebrate the power of public art as a catalyst for conversation, urging us all to think about the contradictions of the times we live in, and the responsibility each of us has to work towards a better world.
Weiwei, a refugee himself, presents a homage to freedom with his 40-foot-tall tower, created in polished stainless steel and suggestive of a birdcage, employing the silhouette of corresponding human figures to signify the free flow of all people and calling for a world without borders.
“Now more than ever, as the world is spinning at its fastest and most challenging, we must broaden our minds, share our experiences, and work together to create a brighter future. The aim of Brilliant Minds is to spark impassioned conversations, encourage questions, and seek answers, and the unveiling of Arch, and our new program of public cultural exhibits, will ensure we continue the important conversation for change,” states Brilliant Minds CEO, Annastasia Seebohm.
(Text by Vatsala Sethi, Assistant Editorial Coordinator (Arts))