Renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Laundromat exhibition opened yesterday in Doha, displaying some 2,046 items of clothing, a wallpaper of 17,062 pictures relating to refugees and meticulously arranged shoes.
The Doha show, which will run until June 1 at the Fire Station’s Garage Gallery, is a response from Qatar Museums’ (QM) invitation for the artist to bring the powerful commentary on the global refugee crisis to the Gulf region for the first time.
“My relationship with Qatar began when I first visited the country last year. I had the chance to tour the Fire Station and meet with the artists who had residencies there,” Ai Weiwei said in a statement.
“It was a great experience to see the openness with which they practised their craft and I am pleased to have the chance to bring Laundromat to this space and continue taking my message to people around the world,” he added. Laundromat highlights Qatar’s development as a creative and artistic hub that encourages dialogue through art, according to QM.
Such a unique exhibition, QM noted, reflects the determination of QM and its Chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to bring the world’s leading contemporary artists to the country aimed at inspiring future generations of artists and engage the local community.
The exhibition also offers a regional platform to some of the world’s most unique and resonant voices.
“By bringing such internationally significant talent to Qatar, we hope to spark creativity for a young generation of artists and build an exciting future for Qatar,” QM’s Fire Station Artist in Residence Programme director Khalifa al-Obaidly said.
“An exhibition such as this, which brings attention to an issue that has preoccupied a generation, is sure to be of interest to the wider community as well. This is a show that should not be missed, and we urge all those who live in and visit Qatar to experience it,” he noted.
Laundromat features thousands of articles of clothing collected from a makeshift refugee camp in Idomeni – a small village in northern Greece and official border crossing to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The camp was shut down in May 2016 and the refugees that had been living there were evacuated, leaving their possessions behind.
Apart from the clothing, QM added that Laundromat also features the film Idomeni (2016) which captures the everyday conditions of the refugees up to now when the camp was evacuated; ‘1.12-09.08.2016’ – a wallpaper which consists of a selection of 17,062 images relating to refugees taken by the artist on his phone during the filming of his documentary feature “Human Flow.”
Alongside Laundromat, QM said other projects by Ai Weiwei will be exhibited at the Fire Station, including Stacked Porcelain Vases as a Pillar (2017), which represents six themes of the refugee condition — War, Ruins, Journey, Crossing the Sea, Refugee Camps, and Demonstrations; and Tyre (2016), a traditional symbol of safety turned on its head by being crafted from marble and representing the struggle faced by refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea.