Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ai WeiWei at IMA

Yesterday Mindy and I went to Indy to see the Ai WeiWei show at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). Neither of us know that much about his work, mostly what we've seen in the press. But still this is Indy, quite possibly the most anesthetic community in the country, why the hell would Ai WeiWei be here?

Let me preface our trip with an interview I read with the new executive director of the IMA. Basically the article made the guy look like an elitist prick to a level not known in the cornfields of Indiana. He compared his museum to Lilly, then asked why the children's museum draws 3 times the visitors that the art museum does, then went on to say that he wanted 'nice average' museum visitors. Now, I'm sure this guy is not as bad as the article made him out to be, but then he did just layoff a ton of staff in a money-saving move, while not reducing his $600k+ salary, with another round of layoffs set for the summer. Maybe he is a banker in the role of director, who really knows. But I digress.

One of the best things about the IMA is that it is free everyday. The special shows are ticketed, but in the past have been relatively cheap. Ai WeiWei was $12 a ticket. Plus $5 to park. That's $29 for two of us to visit a museum that I usually pay $0 to visit. But that's cool I was really looking forward to seeing this celebrity artist's work.

Colored Vases, 2007-2010
Tea House, 2009
Grapes, 2010

The show was a major disappointment on a number of levels. First off, there's very little in the way of stuff to look at in the gallery. You are led into a collection of his time in NYC and his work from the the 2009 Chinese earthquake that killed several kids in shoddy school buildings that were deemed safe by the Chinese government, and some of his other earlier work.

I can't decide if I'm disappointed in the show or the artist celebrity. Basically Ai WeiWei is just the Chinese version of Michael Moore. He is a political activist. His art is not thought-provoking, it is quite clichéd really. His narrative is poor and overly self-centered, and I came away from the show with no new revelations about anything. I'm sorry, I'm sure that Ai WeiWei is a great artist, I just think he sucks. He's a celebrity, and I imagine that his activism does more harm than good for China. All his work did for me was to reinforce americanized stereotypes about the Chinese people and government. While I agree that China has corrupt leaders and awful poverty, I believe that his work is only popular because it plays into the isolated American vision of an evil China. Surely this is an artist that can be loved by the tea party fools and the occupy fools. But I also imagine that celebrity artist will help to bring in dollars for a museum that doesn't necessarily need the money.

After that huge disappointment, we were on our way out of the museum and were stopped by a docent with a survey. We obliged, kind of. It was interesting to hear the survey questions. Typical demographic questions: what did you do while you were here, how can we improve? But instead of asking my opinion I was forced to pick a number between one and five or from a list of possible museum experiences. Hey art museum, if you want to get better throw away your dumbass survey and actually talk like humans to humans.

He Xie, 2010
Overall I think this was one of my most disappointing museum visits I've ever made and I think it has to do with a combination of a new administration and a shitty celebrity, faking as an artist.

1 comment:


Gotta say, I love how you don't mince words. Def. an interesting, provocative post.

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