Ai Weiwei describes Andy Warhol as the "perfume" of the New York art scene in the late 20th century. Even when he wasn't present, Warhol's persona lingered heavily in the air, influencing everyone around him.
It's a poetic sentiment from the Chinese born artist who never had the opportunity to meet Warhol, instead only briefly spotting him across a room somewhere in New York in the early 1980s.
On display now and until the 24th of April at the National Gallery of Victoria, Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei features over three hundred artworks (including five pieces commissioned specifically for the exhibition). Surprisingly it's the first time that Warhol and Weiwei have been showcased side by side, illustrating the striking similarities between the two modern artists.
This stunning exhibition has been curated to create an open dialog between the two men, Pittsburg native Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei, one of China's most controversial citizens.
In 2011 the editors of ArtReview dubbed Weiwei "the most powerful artist in the world". Although his work has reached world wide status, Weiwei is arguably better known as a living symbol of the struggle for human rights after being held as a political prisoner by the Chinese government - to this day he cannot travel without permission from Chinese authorities.
Like Warhol, Weiwei's artistic output has merged with his personality, elevating both men to celebrity status - using a combination of sculpture, film, photography, painting and drawing to express often politically charged opinions.
The exhibition features some of Andy Warhol's most famous works, including screen prints of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Mao Zedong, as well as original copies of Interview Magazine (founded in 1969) and a recreation of his famous New York studio, known simply as 'The Factory'.
Also showcased is Ai Weiwei's 'Letgo Room', the controversial display created out of lego donated by art patrons from around the world after Lego refused to supply their patented bricks for the project. Built specifically for the NGV, the 'Letgo Room' features plastic portraits of 20 Australian activists including Rosie Batty and Julian Assange, a thoughtful tribute to the power of the freedom of speech.