China’s Ai Weiwei gets Spain art show

A Barcelona gallery on Tuesday inaugurated a retrospective of works from the past three decades of dissident artist Ai Wei Wei, who has been banned from leaving China since 2011.

China's Ai Weiwei gets Spain art show
A picture taken on Monday shows an artwork from the Study of Perspective series by Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei at Barcelona's La Virreina Image Centre. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

The "On the Table" show at Barcelona's La Virreina gallery spans photos, videos, sculptures, installations and architecture models from Ai's stint in New York in the 1980s to recent works.

"There are over 40 objects with a selection of items from the beginning of his career as well as works that are now iconic and well known and works made especially for this exhibition," the show's curator Rosa Pera said.

The goal of the exhibition is to show how China's best known contemporary artist uses images to explore "the tension between truth and lies, evidence and ambiguity, control and freedom," she said.

SEE ALSO: Ai Weiwei art opens Stockholm film festival

A sculptor, designer and documentary-maker, Ai has irked Beijing by using his art and online profile to draw attention to injustices in China and the need for greater transparency and rule of law in the world's most populous country.

Despite his fame, Ai has been banned from leaving China since being secretly detained for 81 days three years ago by China's authoritarian communist government for reasons that were never specified.

After his release in June 2011, Ai's design firm was slapped with a hefty tax bill, which he fought unsuccessfully in Chinese courts.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is a table and ten chairs normally installed in Ai's studio in Beijing where he meets to discuss his projects. He sent it as a symbol of his inability to attend the show in person.

The public is invited to sit in the chairs, take pictures and then upload them on social media sites, a preferred medium of the artist.

"When you put something on the table … you do not keep any cards up your sleeve and you show everything you are capable of doing," said Pera, explaining the title of the exhibition which will run until February 2015.

SEE ALSO: The Local's guide to what's on in Spain in November

One of the works made specially for the show is an installation consisting of pieces of marble that simulate grass sprouts emerging from the ground.

The walls of the room where the installation is displayed are decorated with stamped images of an extended middle finger.

Among the items on display is his "Study in Perspective" photo series, where the artist's middle finger is positioned in front of global  landmarks, such as the White House, the British parliament and the Sydney opera house.

The show also includes some of his most famous works, including an ancient ceramic jug decorated with a Coca-Cola logo, a map of China made out of wood from ancient Chinese temples and a small sample from the 10 tonnes of porcelain sunflower seeds which covered the floor at London's Tate Modern as part of his 2010 installation "Sunflower Seeds".

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Wu Lei’s move to Spain’s ‘Liga’ is ‘massive’, says ‘China’s Beckham’

Wu Lei's transfer to La Liga is "massive" for Chinese football, says a former international who made a similar journey 19 years ago and helped convince the forward to take the plunge in Europe.

Wu Lei's move to Spain's 'Liga' is 'massive', says 'China's Beckham'
Espanyol's unveiled its new Chinese forward Wu Lei on January 29, 2019. Photo: AFP

Xie Hui knows what it is like to venture out of the relative obscurity of Chinese football and make a success of it, having scored goals in Germany's second division.

Now 44 and retired from playing, Xie also knows Wu better than most after working with him for the last few years at Chinese Super League champions Shanghai SIPG.

Xie Hui looking on during an AFC Champions League group stage football match last week. 

Wu left SIPG, where Xie is an assistant coach, for Espanyol in January for a reported €2 million ($2.25 million) and made history this month when he became the first Chinese to score in Spain's top league.

Few Chinese have played among Europe's elite, but Xie told AFP that 27-year-old Wu can make as much of an impact — if not more — as Sun Jihai, who was at Premier League Manchester City from 2002-2008.

“I have no doubt that he has the capability to play in a top league, in a decent team,” Xie said of last season's CSL top-scorer.   

“He always had this dream so he would talk to me and say, 'Oh, but what about the language?' But football is a common language.   

“I told him not to worry, the most important is on the pitch and the training ground. They will respect you if you show it on the pitch, it's as simple as that.”

Xie, who once earned comparisons to David Beckham, because he was married to an actress/model, sent Wu a message of congratulations after his landmark goal in Chinese-owned Espanyol's 3-1 win over Real Valladolid.   

Wu's progress is being closely monitored in China and millions back home will watch the broadcast of Espanyol's city derby with Lionel Messi's Barcelona on March 30.

“It's massive, massive, and something we missed for almost the last 15 years,” Xie said of what Wu's move meant for the development of Chinese football.

Need for speed

Like Wu, Xie was a forward, and after starting his career at Shanghai Shenhua, he moved to Alemannia Aachen in Germany's second tier in 2000.   

Xie hit 20 goals in 52 games and attracted the attention of teams in Germany's top flight, before returning to Shenhua in 2002.   

He had two further stints in Germany, before retiring in 2008.   

Xie, who scored nine goals in 22 appearances for China, warned that Wu will need to be patient and “speed up his mindset” in Spain.   

“Pace and physically, he has no problem,” Xie said.   

“But the CSL is much slower, he had much more time, two seconds in front of the goal. But maybe in Spain, you have just one second.”   

Xie, who has worked under the “unique personalities” of Sven-Goran Eriksson, Andre Villas-Boas and now Vitor Pereira at SIPG, is confident Wu will succeed in La Liga.

But he is less optimistic about the immediate future of Chinese football.   

“I do not see that many (like Wu Lei), I would say another one or two, and that's it of that generation,” he warned.   

That dearth of quality hurts the national side, who have qualified for the World Cup only once, in 2002.

So what hopes of reaching Qatar 2022?   

“That will be a miracle, I would not bet over 50 percent,” said Xie.

“From my understanding it will come, but later, at least 10 years from now.

By AFP's Peter Stebbings