Lonely Planet Writer

Austin is getting ready for two Ai Weiwei installations this summer

Ai Weiwei’s works can be found in locations around the U.S. this year, from New York City to Philadelphia, and soon, Austin. Beginning 3 June, two pieces from the renowned Chinese artist and activist will be on long-term loan to the city.

Ai Weiwei's Forever sculpture
Ai Weiwei Forever, 2014. Installation view: Sculpture in the City, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Arts Exhibition, London, 2015. Image by Nick Turpin

As part of a collaboration between the Contemporary Austin and Waller Creek Conservancy, the large scale installations will be on display at the Waller Delta (near the city’s popular urban hike and bike trail system) and the Contemporary Austin’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park. Forever Bicycles (2014) combines over 1200 bicycles into one mesmerizing sculpture, forming an archway that visitors can walk through and explore. Positioned near a lagoon at the fourteen-acre sculpture park, Iron Tree Trunk (2015) is a massive 18-foot structure that resembles a hollowed-out, decomposing tree trunk.

Ai Weiwei's Iron Tree Trunk
Ai Weiwei, Iron Tree Trunk, 2015. Artwork © Ai Weiwei Studio. Courtesy Lisson Gallery. Image by Jack Hems

In many ways, Austin is an apt home to showcase the contemporary artist’s work. “The generous and bohemian activist spirit of Austin is part of what makes the city so unique,” Heather Pesanti, Senior Curator at the Contemporary Austin, tells Lonely Planet. “Given this context, it seems fitting to bring the work of Ai Weiwei – who is not only a recognizable public figure but a respected activist and social practitioner – to the region. His work is immensely enjoyable with aspects of spectacle, but has a deeper political meaning built into its layers.” Peter Mullan, CEO of the Waller Creek Conservancy, agrees, adding, “Ai Weiwei’s work speaks convincingly about many of Austin’s current issues – physical mobility, social mobility, permanence and ephemerality. And what better place to locate 1260 bicycles than on the Butler Hike and Bike Trail!”

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A family-friendly celebration will kick off the public opening for both works at the Waller Delta on Saturday, 3 June from 10 am to noon, which will stay on view as long term loans.