Ai Weiwei: Unbroken is coming soon

Ai Weiwei: Unbroken,Gardiner Museum
Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio

TORONTO—An exhibition of major ceramic works by Ai Weiwei, one of the world’s most influential living artists and human rights activists, will debut at the Gardiner Museum on February 28, 2019.

Ai is known for smashing conventions—and pottery—with iconic pieces like Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995) that upend the cultural traditions and materials of his native China. While his work includes sculpture, installation, photography, film, performance, and architecture, ceramics occupies a singular place in his practice.

“Ceramics are fascinating. I love the tradition, how people for generations have tried to make something happen with this basic language of communication besides its practical uses,” says Ai.

Ai Weiwei: Unbroken will explore the breaking of boundaries, both physical and symbolic, and consider how the artist’s ceramic works form a basis for his ongoing exploration of social justice themes, including immigration and the repression of dissent. Provocative programming developed in collaboration with local partners will draw connections between Ai’s formative ceramic works and urgent global issues.

“Ai Weiwei is a powerful ambassador for ceramics, and one of the most important artists of our time” says Kelvin Browne, Executive Director and CEO of the Gardiner Museum. “His early works in clay remain as potent today as ever, and demonstrate the medium’s ability to address contemporary issues and spark important discussions.”

The exhibition will feature some of Ai’s most celebrated works, displayed in Toronto for the first time, including Sunflower Seeds(2010), Han Dynasty Urn with Coca Cola Logo (2015), and Tree (2010), as well as brand new works.

“I think it’s a mixed society, it’s a kind of energy which can lead to miracles,” says Ai of exhibiting in Toronto. “Through that kind of hybrid and mixing up, then something new can come out, which we don’t exactly know what it is but it’s more colorful, the diversity, inclusiveness, tolerance, and willingness to accept and connect. So those are qualities not only in Toronto, but Canadians often have this kind of quality. I am very impressed about a society which is younger and still has a lot of space to accept new ideas.”

Ai Weiwei: Unbroken will be on display from February 28 to June 9, 2019.

Ai Weiwei, Zodiac
Ai Weiwei, Zodiac, 2018, LEGO bricks, 12 individual works, 45 x 45 inches each (115 x 115 cm each), Image courtesy of the artist.


Ai Weiwei (b. 1957, Beijing) is among the world’s most celebrated contemporary artists and one of China’s most formidable critics. His sculptures, photographs, installations, and public artworks often repurpose traditional Chinese forms and materials to address today’s most pressing social concerns. An outspoken human rights activist, Ai was arrested by Chinese authorities on April 3, 2011 and held incommunicado for eighty-one days. In July 2015 he was granted the return of his passport to travel abroad despite ongoing government surveillance. Throughout, Ai has continued to extend his practice across multiple disciplines, using exhibitions, documentary films, and social media to communicate with a global audience.

Ai Weiwei attended the Beijing Film Academy and the Parsons School of Design in New York. He has received the Chinese Contemporary Art Award (2008); an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Politics and Social Science, University of Ghent, Belgium (2010); the Skowhegan Medal (2011); and the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation (2012).

Ai Weiwei’s work has appeared in major exhibitions such as Documenta XII, Kassel, Germany (2007) and Biennial de Sáo Paulo, Brazil (2010), and has been featured in solo exhibitions at institutions such as the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2009); Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2009); Tate Modern, London, U.K. (2010); Asia Society Museum, New York, NY (2011); the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany (2014); @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, organized by the FOR-SITE Foundation in collaboration with the National Park Service, San Francisco, CA (2014); Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (2015); National Gallery of Victoria, AU (2015); Le Bon Marché, Paris, France (2016); the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI (2017); and the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2012, 2017).


The Gardiner Museum celebrates the art of ceramics and engages local and international audiences by promoting understanding of the long history of people crafting in clay. The Museum stewards a highly important collection, connecting visitors to the fundamental role of ceramics in many cultures throughout history, and offers special temporary displays, many highlighting the relevancy of ceramics to contemporary life.

The permanent collection comprises approximately 4,000 objects, and focuses on specific areas which have been collected in depth. These include the most important collection of European porcelain in Canada, with particular strengths in Meissen, Vienna, and Hausmaler decorated porcelain, as well as a comprehensive collection of figures inspired by the commedia dell’arte. The Gardiner holds the best collection of Italian Renaissance maiolica in Canada, and a superb collection of English tin-glazed pottery. It preserves highly significant collections of ceramics from the Ancient Americas, Chinese blue and white porcelain, Japanese porcelain, and contemporary Canadian ceramics. The Gardiner is among the few museums in the world focused on ceramics, and is one of the most important specialty museums internationally. For more information, please visit:


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