Ai Weiwei brings his stunning dissident art to Canada, only it's in Ontario

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      Let's take a moment to turn green with envy at what's going on at the Art Gallery of Ontario this summer and fall.

      The Hogtown institution has scored a coup with Ai Weiwei: According to What?, a major show of more than 40 large-scale works by the revolutionary Chinese artist—arguably the most important contemporary artist on the planet. The exhibit, the artist's debut in Toronto, spans sculptures, photographs, and video and audio installations, with plenty of the fearless dissident's activism on view.

      Don't expect Ai to attend when the show opens August 17: he's under surveillance at his home in Beijing, and has been unable to leave China since the Chinese government confiscated his passport in 2011. They're not really into freedom of expression over there.

      In case you're headed eastward this summer, tickets go on sale July 27. Expect the event to be in high demand.

      As if that's not enough, the gallery is also hosting the ultracool ode to David Bowie starting September 25, straight off its hit run at the  Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It covers five decades and features more than 300 objects from Bowie’s personal archive in an immersive multimedia show. We're talking handwritten set lists, lyrics, diary entries, instruments, and sketches, plus more than 50 stage costumes, as well as music videos, set designs, photographs, and excerpts from films and live performances.

      Ground Control to Major Tom: can someone please try to bring these shows here?


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      Jul 25, 2013 at 7:46am

      Thank You Janet!

      Yes, yes, and yes. Where is global visual art at the VAG? Vancouver is a part of the global world. It needs blockbuster level visual art.

      Another argument for a new VAG? What's up with that? When does Bartels start fundraising?

      David B, Toronto

      Jul 25, 2013 at 11:39am

      I can only wonder what an entire floor was taken up earlier this year when I saw the Spiegelman comic book/cartoonist exhibition at the VAG? Isn't that part of the global art world? I've seen Weiwei shows in Munich and Paris, among other places, and find his work very over rated. While I admire his political actions, I find most of his work very superficial and self-indulgent. (And yes, I've seen the documentary about him and it still hasn't convinced me he has much to say about contemporary China or much original in artistic expression.) Yes, his student back pack wall made a statement, but but plaster sunflower seeds?! His series of New York photos reflect an innocent abroad discovering this amazing city, but little more of consequence.

      In Vancouver you have a much more exciting example of contemporary Chinese art in the Yue Minjun sculptures on display in the West End near Stanley Park.

      I can sympathize given the limited space the VAG must contend with in satisfying the public art desires of local residents. At least Vancouverites can enjoy the exhibition of contemporary Middle Eastern artists and their work out at the UBC campus.

      S. Callaghan

      Jul 30, 2013 at 1:48pm

      For anyone heading out to Toronto to see the Ai Wei Wei exhibit, there will also be a series of talks by James Poborsa, a researcher in contemporary Chinese art, every Wednesday throughout August. James is one of the few researchers in the world with this expertise, so it should be a real treat!