Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, one of the nation’s premier botanic and sculpture experiences, is opening a landmark exhibition featuring internationally renowned artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Opening on January 27, 2017, Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State is the first of its kind for the artist at a botanical garden or sculpture park anywhere in the world. More than 30 works will be sited in galleries, conservatories, public spaces and the auditorium.


The title of the exhibition underscores the relationship between the artist and the venue. The word “natural” sheds light on Ai Weiwei’s use of imagery from the natural world to introduce his ideas and concerns. It also refers to his use of natural materials from ceramics and silk, to bamboo and wood. The word “state” suggests multiple levels of meaning, from the state of a found object that the artist may transform, to the state of humanity, whose inequalities and injustices the artist feels compelled to call out for the betterment of the lives of women, men and children everywhere. The notion of “state” also refers to political systems that Ai Weiwei has challenged for the benefit of humankind in his native China and around the world.

The exhibition at Meijer Gardens provides Ai Weiwei the opportunity to use the diverse environments of the four gallery spaces, four indoor conservatories, auditorium and numerous public areas. Iconic works from across the artist’s repertoire, as well as work specific to Meijer Gardens, will be featured.

Courtesy Meijer Gardens
Courtesy Meijer Gardens

Ai Weiwei has emerged as one of the defining cultural voices for the 21st century. Known to work in a wide variety of contexts and scale, his ability to transform materials to share his ideas, concerns and vision has given rise to a critically acclaimed and widely appreciated body of work. Among recent work is his colossal Iron Tree, acquired and installed in 2015 in honor of Meijer Gardens’ 20th anniversary.

Presenting sponsors are The Daniel & Pamella DeVos Foundation and the Meijer Foundation.

Joseph Antenucci Becherer, Chief Curator and Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections at Meijer Gardens said “With more than 30 works installed across galleries, conservatories and public spaces, this fascinating and thought-provoking collection of works is quite unlike any exhibition Meijer Gardens has ever mounted.”

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