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Ai Weiwei Draws Attention to the Refugee Crisis with Powerful New Installation

ai weiwei law of the journey

With his new exhibition Law of the Journey, Ai Weiwei continues to explore the enormity of the refugee humanitarian crisis. A refugee himself, Ai Weiwei has dedicated the last two years of his career to creating politically charged artwork that speaks to the issue.

“There’s no refugee crisis, but only human crisis… In dealing with refugees we’ve lost our very basic values,” states the Chinese artist, one of the most powerful figures in contemporary art. Hosted in the Trade Fair Palace by the National Gallery of Prague, his work is a “multi-layered, epic statement on the human condition.”

The location itself is a powerful reminder of how history repeats itself. Built in 1928, the Trade Fair Palace was an assembly point for Jews before their deportation to the Terezín concentration camp. Here, under the weight of its past, the hall is a vessel for Ai Weiwei's new, epic installation.

ai weiwei law of the journey

An immense, overcrowded rubber boat filled with bodies unfurls across the space.  The boat is suspended from the ceiling, much as the fate of its passengers hangs in the balance. Stuck in limbo, without knowledge of what is to come, they huddle together as they move toward a new future.

Tellingly, bodies are littered around the boat. Fallen soldiers during the arduous crossing, some whom have already passed, others who reach out for safety—they are a reminder of just how perilous these journeys can be.

In addition to this new piece, the exhibition also includes previous work, such as Laundromat, where clothes and shoes collected from a refugee camp are meticulously laid out, and Snake Ceiling. This monumental piece is dedicated to 5,000 schoolchildren who lost their lives during an earthquake in China in 2008.

Law of the Journey will be on display at the National Gallery of Prague until January 7, 2018.

Ai Weiwei has spent the last two years of his life creating artwork that speaks to the refugee crisis.

ai weiwei law of the journey

“In this time of uncertainty, we need more tolerance, compassion, and trust for each other since we all are one. Otherwise, humanity will face an even bigger crisis.”

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Law of the Journey also includes a selection of previously exhibited installations.

ai wei wei law of the journey ai wei wei law of the journey ai wei wei law of the journey ai wei wei law of the journey

Ai Weiwei: Website | Facebook | Instagram
National Gallery of Prague: Website | Facebook | Instagram
h/t: [Juxtapoz, designboom]

All images via the National Gallery of Prague.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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