I recently went to the Cycladic Art Museum here in Athens with my good friend Eliza. The exhibition we went to see is close to my heart – 10% of the proceeds goes to METAdrasi – an NGO I have been volunteering with for the past year, and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF – Doctors Without Borders). Ai Weiwei spent a few months (on and off) and has even set up a studio, in the Greek island of Lesbos.
This is Ai Weiwei’s first ever exhibition in Greece, and the first in an Archaeological Museum. Entrance to the exhibition costs 7 euros.
In general, I loved it. I found the series of photographs by the Photographic Society of Mytilene called Lesvos Photographs (2015–16) very touching yet heartbreaking to see. Bring tissues. I did not photograph anything from the series, as a sign of respect to these photographers. iPhone Wallpaper (2016) followed the series, and they were so so small that you had to really walk up close to the wall to see the photos clearly.
I wasn’t particularly keen on the placement of Ai’s ‘middle-finger’ photographs (Study of Perspective – 1995-2011, 2014) right after the refugees series. It seemed a bit out-of-place and shocked me slightly after being so somber, but I suppose it is meant to be glaring and jolt you like a cold bucket of water… Provoking? It certainly did.
There were other pieces scattered around the Museum like Dust to Dust (2008), a glass jar containing Neolithic pots that have been ground into powder that symbolizes the wilful destruction of history and rewriting of the past by the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao; and Tear Bottle/Tear Gas Canister (2016), where he displayed tear gas canisters that he and his team found in Idomeni (when FYROM police used tear gas and rubber bullets against refugees) alongside antique tear bottles – vessels used to collect tears of mourners.
The sculptures, particularly the marble ones are impressive. Of course the prominent piece that Ai Weiwei created for this exhibition is Standing Figure (2016). It resembles the recognizable Cycladic figurines (that you can see in the Museum logo), but depicts one of Ai Weiwei’s well-known works – Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995).
If you have a chance to go, please do. The exhibition is running until the end of October. The gift shop is full of Ai Weiwei memorabilia – tote bags, t-shirts, postcards and notebooks.
Ai Weiwei at Cycladic
Dates: 20th May – 30th October 2016
Cycladic Friends: Admission Free
Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat: 10.00-17.00
Museum of Cycladic Art (MCA)
4, Neofytou Douka str. / Vas. Sophias & Irodotou 1
T: (+30) 210 7228321-3