Local museum to feature famed Chinese artist

MIAMI (WSVN) — There will be as many as 750 stainless steel bikes stacked on top of each other as part of the opening show for the brand new Perez Art Museum Miami finally unveiling in just two weeks.

“Excited, very excited,” Chief Curator Tobias Ostrander said. “We're almost there. We're getting there.”

The $220 million museum is opening in a big way, with a huge show of one of the most important figures in the art world, Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei. “I think it's a fantastic, fantastic exhibition,” Director of the Miami Art Museum Thom Collins said. “I think people are going to be moved, compelled, excited, and it's going to incite a lot of interesting debate.”

Weiwei captured the attention of the world in the Spring of 2011, when the outspoken artist and activist was mysteriously arrested by Chinese authorities, his whereabouts unknown.

The international community rallied for his freedom as massive protests were held outside Chinese embassies across the globe until he was released 81 days later, charged with tax evasion.

This marks Weiwei's first-ever show in Miami, but stripped of his passport by the government of China, he will not be able to attend.

His chief curator, Mami Kataoka, is in town to install the exhibition. “I'm sure that he's very pleased to be the first artist to be shown in this new building,” Kataoka said.

The museum is designed by the prolific Swiss architect team of Herzog and de Meuron, who collaborated with Weiwei when they built the iconic Bird's Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The photographs are part of the show, as are 3,000 hand-painted ceramic crabs: a homage to the feast of 10,000 river crabs Weiwei and his supporters organized after the Chinese government destroyed his studio in Shanghai. “The way we install, we kinda try to make it look like these are fighting, so it makes it like they're alive,” Kataoka said.

Even though Weiwei is Chinese, his message is universal: Freedom of expression and the power of the individual. “He's a figure fighting for human rights and human dignity and a lot of our public, a lot of people of Miami have come from difficult backgrounds or oppressive regimes,” Ostrander said.

“I think that's going to resonate with quite a few people in our community, so I'm excited to share it with them,” Collins said.

The Perez Art Museum Miami opens to the public on Wednesday, Dec. 4. Miami-Dade residents will have free admission through Dec. 8.