Palazzo Strozzi: Ai Weiwei Art Exhibition


Palazzo Strozzi lies just between Piazza Strozzi and Via Tornabuoni (the fashion street of Florence!).  This beautiful renaissance building was commissioned by the Florentine merchant Filippo Strozzi and completed in 1538.  Acting as a temporary exhibition space, the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi has been extremely successful over the last few years in creating an innovative program of exhibitions, events, and activities.  Their newest exhibition intrigued my curiosity and I am so glad that I went to see it.  My parents came into town for a few days, making it the perfect time to go check out Ai Weiwei’s newest installation.  While I have a huge appreciation for for art and culture, it’s rare that I feel truly moved by art.  This was one of those rare times.  If you’re ever in Florence I highly recommend checking out Palazzo Strozzi!

“Creativity is the power to reject the past, to change the status quo, and to seek new potential.  Simply put, aside from using one’s imagination, perhaps more importantly, creativity is the power to act.”

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist, active in sculpture, installation, architecture, curating, photography, film, and social, political and cultural.  After being arrested on April 3, 2011 he was falsely imprisoned for 81 days in Beijing, though his exhibition he does an astounding job of speaking out against the Chinese government through rebellious sculptures and contemporary art.



Refraction is an installation comprising solar cookers, assembled to emulate a wing.  Presented first on Alcatraz island, the notorious prison island in the San Francisco Bay, in 2014, the wing symbolizes freedom, but at the same time it imparts a sense of claustrophobia on it’s account of its size and gravity, seeking to communicate a sense of narrow confines within which prisoners live out their lives.


Grapes gathers together thirty four stools-one of the most common items of Chinese daily life- and defies gravity in a composition that proliferates by repeating the initial module, a feature of today’s megalopolises.


Map of China is a sculpture-puzzle comprising pieces of wood symbolizing the ethnic and cultural diversity of a country which, though united, is in effect the fusion of a mass of individuals.  In the two tables, he highlights the nonsensical aspect by reconstructing and altering the structure, while leaving the patina untouched.

As a designer, I fell in love with this space aesthetically, the high contrast, simplicity, minimalism, and, not to mention, the well structured furniture pieces.  What made it even more appealing, was discovering what the space represented and the meaning behind the use of colors and materiality.


Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn is an infamous and controversial performance from 1995 in which Ai Weiwei destroyed a Han Dynasty urn, dating over 2,000 years old, by letting it crash to the floor.

Ai Weiwei does a superb job of combining tradition and modern elements throughout his exhibition.  Here, the three iconic photos depicted are actually made of LEGOS, while the urns are actually ancient vases that he’s covered with car paint to make traditional pieces transform into contemporary pieces.


Untitled (wooden ball) are two polyhedra echoing the drawings that Leonardo da Vinci produced to illustrate Luca Pacioli’s treatise De divina proportione.

Within this space were also stunning, pop art-like portraits done of renaissance influencers made out of LEGOS!  The one that I photographed was my favorite of the four, scientist Galileo, who was jailed and tried for defending his ideas.


Snake Bags At 14:28 on 12 May 2008 an earthquake in Sichian, measured at 8.0 Ms on the ricther scale, killed roughly seventy thousand people.  Thousands of students lost their lives in schools that collapsed due to the poor quality of the materials used in their construction.”  In this art installation, Ai created a snake out of school bags sewn together, representing the students who lost their lives in this tragedy, the wooden boxes represeting coffins and the rebar representing the twisted rebar that was found in the wreckage of the collapsed schools.


Shanghai In 2008, Ai Weiwei was asked by the Shanghai authorities to build a studio in Mali Town, Which was completed in October 2010.  On account of his political activities, the same municipal government declared that the studio had been built without the proper permits and ordered its demolition.  Ai Weiwei incited a host of people over the Internet to attend a party on November 7 to celebrate both the studio’s completion and its demolition.  To precent the artist himself from attending the party, he was placed under house arrest in Beijing.


Blossom, the artist uses the Chinese artistic technique par excellence to evoke the Hundred Flowers Movement, a brief moment during which the Chinese government adopted a more relaxed stance on freedom of expression in 1956.


Study of Perspective, the 40 photographs all have in common the artist’s left arm raised and giving the finger to such global icons such as, the white house, the mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, the Hong Kong and New York skylines, St. Mark’s Square, the Colosseum and the Sagrada Familia.  With his irreverent gesture Ai Weiwei seeks to prod the observer into questioning his or her own approach to governments, to institutions and even to culture itself.


Last, but certainly not last we had to take a selfie with Ai Weiwei!  While his art has very deep meanings and representations he still has a wonderful sense of humor, seen throughout his show.


Hope you enjoyed!  All of the descriptions were those written in the museum!




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