Ai Weiwei’s cage sculpture in Stockholm takes on new meaning after war in Ukraine

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei says his great sculpture Camber (2017), which was unveiled in Stockholm this week, takes on additional resonance in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. The work, which stands outside the Nationalmuseum, is a 40-foot-tall cage-like structure set back with the shape of two human figures whose silhouettes are joined. It will be displayed outside the museum for a year, then moved to a permanent site elsewhere in the city.

The piece was first presented in New York in 2017 under the arch of the Washington Square Monument. “At the time, it was about racism and global refugee crises caused by regional insecurity. Since then, we have collectively lived through the pandemic, gone through isolation and seen how vulnerable life is. Today, the war between Russia and Ukraine has forced five to six million people to flee their homes,” says Ai Weiwei. The arts journal.

“The conflicts between two superpowers, China and the United States, resemble a cold war; energy, environmental and famine issues could cause even more humanitarian crises. Our world is more uncertain and unstable than at any time in the previous half century. In such a context, this work is once again a warning and a reminder,” he says.

Have Camber (2017) brilliant minds; Photo: © Jean Lapin

Ai Weiwei was inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s design for the Gradiva gallery in Paris launched by surrealism pioneer André Breton in 1937. and in my work, it’s a cage. It is more relevant to us as we all face the challenge of stepping out of the cage of our thoughts, living conditions and wars, into a state of peace and health,” he says.

Camber is supported by Brilliant Minds, a foundation that organizes an annual conference in the Swedish capital, a so-called “Davos of the creative industries”. Brilliant Minds was created in 2015 by Spotify founder Daniel Ek and entrepreneur Arash Pournouri.

Ai Weiwei is among the speakers at this year’s annual gathering. “Camber is the first iteration of a new series of public cultural exhibitions that Brilliant Minds has pledged to support in Stockholm over the next five years,” says a company spokesperson (details to come).

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