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Michigan museum is host to the renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei

Weiwei is an iconoclastic figure who has transcended art by challenging the Chinese Communist government - for which he was jailed – and speaking out on human rights issues around the world.

Weiwei works in several media, from sculpture to huge installations, photography and film.

He was instrumental in designing the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Chinese Summer Olympics.

At Meijer Gardens, more than 30 works are on view at various locations around the museum.

Two year ago, Meijer Gardens acquired one of Weiwei’s sculptures, Iron Tree.

The museum says the exhibit’s title Natural State “underscores” the relationship between the artist and Meijer Gardens’ natural setting.

Weiwei often uses nature in his art to convey his ideas, and uses natural materials to create his works, from silk to bamboo and wood.

Meanwhile, says the museum, the word “state” has “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.”

Chief Curator Joseph Antenucci Becherer told that the museum’s relationship with the artist goes back several years.

“Meijer Gardens first began working with Ai Weiwei more than three years ago.

“In fact, we met with him several times in his Beijing studio as he was still under house arrest at the time.” 

Becherer said the Grand Rapids location was ideal for the exhibit.

“The idea for the exhibition sprang from the idea that he had never shown at a botanical garden or sculpture park and it seemed as if such unique venues would reach and inform new audiences.”

Becherer said this is among the largest exhibitions Meijer Gardens has hosted and “certainly among our most consequential.”

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