Despite its geographic isolation, Australian cultural life benefits from some of the world’s best museum exhibitions and artist retrospectives, offering our country a chance to interact with major artworks that much of the world might have only seen on the internet. But when it opens in December, the National Gallery of Victoria’s Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition will eclipse most others in its sheer star power – not to mention expected ticket sales. As the name suggests, the exhibition showcases the work of two of the 20th and 21st century’s most significant artists, the late Andy Warhol and dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, pitting the two art world superstars alongside one another to see their respective explorations of contemporary culture and how their practices intersect and diverge. And while Mr Warhol died in 1987, his witty observations of and commentary on consumer culture represented the best (or worst, depending on how you might view it) of the “American century”, while Mr Weiwei’s provocative post-industrial artworks explore the role of the individual and the state and the value of freedom of expression in the “Chinese century”.
As the artist says, “I believe this is a very interesting and important exhibition and an honour for me to have the opportunity to be exhibited alongside Andy Warhol.” When living in the United States (1981-1993), Mr Weiwei photographed himself in from of Mr Warhol’s iconic multiple self-portrait series, famously echoing the artistic gesture. With more than 300 works – including immersive installations, paintings, sculpture, film, photography and published matter – the exhibition was developed by the NGV in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum, viewers will have the chance to see Mr Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s Soup, Mao, Brillo Boxes and Ketchup Boxes works, as well as Mr Weiwei’s major works S.A.C.R.E.D. and Trace. It’s worth lining up now.