Ai Weiwei to feature in Abu Dhabi art exhibit

NYU Abu Dhabi’s exhibition will focus on today's relationships with technology, privacy and social media.

Neil Churchill August 9, 2016

While most sectors in the UAE simmer down during the summer months, one that noticeably drops off more than others is the arts.

But in anticipation of the hot months ending, NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery has announced a new exhibit starting in late September, and it features a mega name of the art world.

Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents will focus on the modern world’s relationships with technology, looking at isolation vs. connectedness and privacy vs. social media.

The exhibit will feature works by 15 international artists, including renowned Chinese conceptual artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Known for his political works as well as his architectural and musical projects, Weiwei has been openly critical of the Chinese government in the past, which resulted in his arrest and incarceration for 81 days in 2011. 

Other artists, whose work features above, include: Liu Bolin - Angles and Charger Man, made from mobile phone chargers; Addie Wagenknecht - XXXX.XXX, made from circuit boards and ethernet cables; Michael Joaquin Grey - My Sputnik; and Wafaa Bilal - Canto III

The exhibition will also feature NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery’s first guest curator from the academic spectrum. Professor Scott Fitzgerald, program head of Interactive Media at NYU Abu Dhabi and a media artist, will co-curate the exhibit alongside Bana Kattan, the art gallery’s Assistant Curator.

“This universal theme (technological revolutions) is especially relevant in the UAE, a country that is home to extraordinary state-level technological innovations, as well as a remarkably tech-savvy, connected population,” said Kattan.

“In keeping with the NYUAD Art Gallery’s mission to produce exhibitions that are both internationally significant and locally relevant, this exhibit showcases some of the most interesting artwork being made today around the topic of the individual’s experience with technology.”

Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents will run from 22 September through 31 December. 

Ai Weiwei

  • Weiwei’s blog on China’s biggest social media platform Sina Weibo was shut down in 2009 due to its popularity and outspoken criticism of the Beijing Olympic Games and response to the Sichuan earthquake.
  • In response to the government’s lack of transparency after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, Weiwei led a team to investigate and reveal the names of students who died due to substandard construction of schools – his blog had accumulated 5,385 names in 2009 before it was shut down. Soon afterwards, Weiwei required emergency brain surgery for internal bleeding after he was beaten by police for attempting to testify on the construction case
  • In 2010 Weiwei was placed under house arrest to prevent him attending a party for the demolition of his Shanghai studio. Weiwei claims the studio was built after persuasion from a high official to help create a new cultural area.
  • In 2010, Weiwei was prevented from leaving China to stop him attending the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, which was being awarded to fellow dissident Liu Xiaobo. Weiwei claims he was in fact travelling to a meeting in South Korea.
  • In 2011, Weiwei was arrested as he attempted to fly to Hong Kong, and his studio was searched. His eight staff members and his wife, Lu Qing, were also arrested. Weiwei’s assistant, Wen Tao, has remained missing ever since. Almost three moths after his arrest, Weiwei was released after being charged with tax evasion.