More than 1500 silver bicycle frames have been installed in the foyer of the National Gallery of Victoria, in the lead up to the feverishly anticipated Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei exhibition, which is set to open next week. It's the latest iteration of Ai's Forever Bicycles, an ongoing project that dates back to 2003, and offers a towering visual metaphor for social and political change in the artist's native China.
'Forever' bicycles are a popular brand of mass produced Chinese bicycles that Ai himself desired as a child. Now, he has more than a thousand. Connected together, the frames create a giant, three-dimensional arch more than nine metres high, which the outspoken artist has called "a moving abstract shape that symbolises the way in which the social environment in China is changing."
The enormous installation is one of 300 works that will make up the exhibition, which opens to the public on Friday December 11. Among them will be a number of new commissions by Ai, including a work that consists of hundreds of delicate porcelain flowers, as well as a room-scale installation featuring portraits of Australian human rights activists. He will also be creating a large scale work out of Lego, using bricks donated from all around the world after Lego turned down a bulk order by the artist on the grounds that it "cannot approve the use of Legos for political works."
Ai is expected to visit Australia this week for the opening of the exhibition. The artist, who has long been critical of the Chinese government, had been barred from travelling abroad since being imprisoned by the authorities in 2011, but had his passport returned to him earlier this year.
The Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei exhibition runs from December 11 until April 24. For more information, visit the NGV website.