The potency of flower power


I felt drawn to an exhibition in Melbourne that featured Andy Warhol’s work.  Maybe it was my fascination with our celebrity driven world where the selfie stick is king and social media enables anyone to have their 10 minutes of fame.

But how did Chinese artist, activist and outspoken social media commentator, Ai Weiwei’s 21st Century China, intersect with Warhols’ 20th Century pop-art America?

I had my ah-ha moment when I saw Warhol’s pop-art paintings of flowers in the sixties and Ai Weiwei’s With Flowers project.

Ai Weiwei’s passport was confiscated for four years.  In November 2013, by way of protest and suspecting that he was being watched, he ventured out of his studio in Beijing daily and left a lone bunch of flowers in his bicycle basket.

Some 600 days later, in July 2015, no floral tribute appeared.  Ai Weiwei had his passport returned and was free to travel outside China again.

He photographed the morning flower ritual and these now emblazon a wall at the National Gallery of Victoria in all their splendour.

Not only was it a gesture filled with symbolism, but ‘flower power’ bridged the two artists, two centuries and superpowers powerfully.

I was deeply moved by the exhibition and would suggest that you allow at least two hours or more to see it.

The National Gallery Victoria: Warhol/Ai Weiwei exhibition is on until 24 April 2016.

 

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