The big “POTUS in the Middle East Trip” had US President Donald Trump in Israel. During the trip, Trump visited the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; however, he wasn’t the only famous face set to have an event there. In the days leading up to Trump’s arrival, artist-activist Ai Weiwei was busy preparing for the opening of his show, Maybe, Maybe Not. The show will feature works that the museum press release says “explore the relationship of the individual to society.” The exhibition will include his iconic piece, Sunflower Seeds.
Refugees: A Hot Topic for Trump & Ai Weiwei
Ai is known for his politically-charged, large-scale pieces, often critical of the Chinese government and human rights abuses. While Donald Trump was on the campaign trail, Ai spent many months traveling to refugee camps around the world, documenting much of it on his Instagram. In February of 2016, Ai Weiwei covered the columns of Konzerthaus in Berlin with thousands of discarded life vests once used by refugees. Law of the Journey, a 70-meter long raft with 258 refugees aboard, recently became the artist’s largest piece ever.
This is a stark contrast to Donald Trump’s controversial attempts to stop refugees from entering the United States. Though the courts overturned his refugee ban, Trump has still been successful at reducing the number of refugees that will enter the US in 2017; under Trump the number is capped at 50,000, down from the 85,000 President Obama allowed to enter in 2016.
Ai Weiwei and Trump in Israel
Recently, Ai Weiwei shared photos of his prep work for the show in Jerusalem. This also included photos and videos of his work hiding behind press conference facades assembled for the US President Trump in Israel Museum.
One particular photo shows President Trump walking past what appears to be Ai’s piece, Trees. The piece is made of parts of various species of dead trees Ai collected from forests in China. The museum press release describes the piece:
These towering structures encourage an appreciation for the individual elements that combine to create a whole, a recurring motif in Ai’s practice.
One might say Trump and Ai stand for opposing ideals. It is unclear if Ai and Trump spoke at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem or simply shared breathing air.
In November, Ai Weiwei posted a photo of his hand flipping off Trump Tower to his Instagram account.
Ai Weiwei’s exhibition Maybe, Maybe Not opens at Israel Museum on 2 June 2017.