Activism on Display: Museum Exhibitions Shine a Light on Powerful People, Stories, and Causes

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses during a photocall, amongst art pieces displayed in his exhibition “Ai Weiwei: making sense” at the Design Museum in London, Britain, April 4, 2023. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Showcasing important causes through museum exhibitions is a tried and true forum for artists to cast a light on issues that matter to them, or share personal stories of perseverance. Museums in London and Vienna, to name a few, are doing exactly that with museums on display now.
A visitor of the Leopold museum looks at the painting "Setting sun" by Egon Schiele after the museum tilted 15 of its paintings in protest of climate change in Vienna, Austria, March 22, 2023. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Vienna ‘few degrees’ exhibit tilts paintings to call for climate action

A Vienna museum where climate activists recently attacked the glass screen shielding a Gustav Klimt painting has responded with an exhibit entitled ‘A Few Degrees More’ that tilts works to draw attention to the need for action on climate change.

Activists from the group Last Generation smeared the screen in front of Klimt’s “Death and Life” at the Leopold Museum in Vienna and glued one of their hands to it in the November protest calling for an end to drilling for oil.

“We found this way to be absolutely the wrong one,” the museum’s artistic director, Hans-Peter Wipplinger, told Reuters on the opening day of its response: a small exhibition with the full title “A Few Degrees More (Will Turn the World into an Uncomfortable Place)”.

It involves hanging 15 works by artists including Klimt and fellow Austrian great Egon Schiele at an angle, with texts calling attention to the effect that global warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels would have on the landscapes depicted in them.

According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), emissions must be halved by the mid-2030s if the world is to have any chance of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels—a key target enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“We wanted to initiate something productive, something communicative. That means conveying a message and not just in spectacular images (such as the protest) but by helping visitors learn about the situation and the various contexts of this global heating,” Wipplinger said.

The exhibition runs until June 26, 2023.

museum exhibitions
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses during a photocall, amongst art pieces displayed in his exhibition "Ai Weiwei: making sense" at the Design Museum in London, Britain, April 4, 2023. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Ai Weiwei goes big for design-focused London exhibition

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei unveiled his latest large-scale project in London, a 49-foot-long recreation of Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies” made with nearly 650,000 Lego pieces, in a tribute to his late father.

Titled “Water Lilies #1”, the artwork is one of the centrepieces of Ai’s new “Making Sense” exhibition at London’s Design Museum—his biggest UK show in eight years.

The piece is Ai’s largest Lego creation but the artist is no stranger to the medium. His 2014 installation “Trace” comprised 176 Lego portraits of political prisoners from around the world.

Also on display are some 200,000 porcelain spouts from Song dynasty tea pots, thousands of fragments of Ai’s porcelain sculptures, which were destroyed when his Beijing studio was demolished in 2018, as well as around 1,600 tools dating from the late Stone Age.

It contains 42 new works, never before seen in London and many works on public display for the first time because the art is quite a scale in terms of numbers or quantity, Ai, 65, said.

“Ai Weiwei: Making Sense” runs at the Design Museum from April 7 to July 30.

May 5, 2008: David Bowie and Iman attending the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Credit: Roger Wong/ Ref.: infusny-12 Featuring: David Bowie, Iman Where: New York City, New York, United States When: 05 May 2008 Credit: Roger Wong/

David Bowie archive to go on display for first time

David Bowie’s “incredible” archive is to go on display for the first time.

Officials from London’s V&A Museum announced that they had secured the late Starman singer’s collection of handwritten lyrics, letters, sheet music, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, instruments, album artwork, and awards.

Encompassing over 80,000 items, including Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust ensembles designed by Freddie Burretti, the archive is set to go on display at The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts at the V&A East Storehouse in 2025.

“David Bowie was one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time,” said Dr Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A. “The V&A is thrilled to become custodians of his incredible archive, and to be able to open it up for the public.”

The acquisition of the archive by the V&A was made possible by executives at the David Bowie Estate and a $12 million donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Warner Music Group.

Reacting to the news, actress Tilda Swinton expressed her delight over her friend’s work being exhibited for younger generations to view.

“In acquiring his archive for posterity, the V&A will now be able to offer access to David Bowie’s history—and the portal it represents—not only to practicing artists from all fields, but to every last one of us, and for the foreseeable future,” she commented. “This is a truly great piece of news, which deserves the sincerest gratitude and congratulations to all those involved who have made it possible.”

Bowie died at the age of 69 in 2016.

(Source: Reuters)

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