Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei unveiled the Arch, a cage-like sculpture in front of the National Museum of Stockholm. The 12-meter-tall stainless steel structure features at its center silhouettes of two people holding one another, appearing to break through the steel bars of the cage. The artwork was created to symbolize refugee stories and is seen as an ode to freedom. The sculpture is installed outside Nationalmuseum national gallery on the Blasienholmen peninsula in Stockholm’s archipelago. It will remain there for one year, after which, it will be moved to a yet undisclosed location in the city.
The artwork was last seen in 2017 in New York, under the arch of the Washington Square Monument, as part of the Good Fences Make Good Neighbors installation. According to the artist, when the piece was first shown, it was about racism and the global refugee crisis caused by regional insecurity. Since then, the artwork has taken on new meanings, just as more crises and conflicts unfurl, like the collective isolation and vulnerability experienced during the pandemic, and more recently, the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Our world is more uncertain and unstable than any other time during the previous half a century. Against such a backdrop this work is once again a warning and reminder. - Ai Weiwei in an interview for The Art Newspaper
Arch is supported by Brilliant Minds, a foundation that organizes an annual conference in the Swedish capital, a self-styled “Davos of the creative industries”. Brilliant Minds was established in 2015 by Daniel Ek, the founder of Spotify, and the entrepreneur Arash Pournouri. Ai Weiwei is among the speakers at this year’s annual gathering, which took place in Stockholm in June. According to Brilliant Minds CEO Annastasia Seebohm, Arch is the first iteration of a series of public cultural exhibits in Stockholm, supported by Brilliant Minds over the next five years.
A prolific artist and social activist, Ai Weiwei has been a vocal supporter of human rights and a critic of China’s rapid economic expansion. In 2010, Ai earned praise for his installation, at Tate Modern in London, of 100 million hand-painted porcelain “sunflower seeds,” which were produced by some 1,600 Chinese artisans. While his work has received international praise, the frequently provocative and subversive dimensions of his art have triggered various forms of repression from Chinese authorities. In 2011 he was arrested and held for 81 days without charge, sparking global protest. His passport was confiscated, and he was detained in China until 2015. The artist currently lives in Portugal and is this year’s headliner for Passages Insolites, a public art circuit in Québec, Canada.