In 2009, Adriano Berengo visited Ai Wei Wei at his studio in Beijing. He invited him to work together in Murano, in his studio in Venice. Some time later, when he arrived on the island in the lagoon, the Chinese artist began a fruitful professional relationship, fascinated by the skill of master glassmakers who turned his thoughts into reality.
Thus was born the “Human Comedy”, a monumental eight-meter-high and six-meter-wide black glass chandelier made up of 2,000 pieces: human and animal skeletons and skulls, bones and internal organs, bats and crabs, a modern mementomori that emerged after from three years of work and weighs a total of four tons. This chandelier was placed on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, inside the Basilica of the same name, in an exhibition that will last until November 27.
The gigantic installation, presented for the first time in Venice, is flanked by recent and past works which, along with glass, include materials with which the artist has long experimented, such as wood, porcelain and Lego bricks.
This is Ai Wei Wei’s first work with glass sculptures, one of the largest hanging works of Murano glass art in the world, and the so-called “Human Comedy” is the focus of a new exhibition of 32 works in the 16th-century church.
The title of the giant, glass sculpture refers to Dante’s 14th century epic poem, The Divine Comedy. Although work on its construction began before the pandemic it is a tribute to the many lives lost during this period. As the artist says, the subject is death which is always here and accompanies us, even if we don’t want to recognize the fact.
The Berengo studio on the Venetian island of Murano, with which Ai Wei Wei collaborated for the exhibition, collaborates with artists from around the world to realize glass works. Antique glass collector Ai Wei Wei loves working with the fragile and precious material, noting that in ancient Greek tombs, glass was used to make bottles of tears shed by the living for the dead.
The exhibition also includes Remains (2015), which resembles an archaeological site and consists of porcelain reproductions of human bones excavated from the site of a labor camp operated by Mao Zedong in the late 1950s, when thousands of intellectuals were purged , along with them and the artist’s father, poet Ai Qing. Another sculpture in the exhibition, Glass Root presents the root system of the ancient Pequi tree, an endangered species endemic to Brazil, left over from deforestation and natural causes.