Entertainment & Arts

Ai Weiwei refugee-inspired art goes on display

Ai Weiwei Image copyright Reuters

Artworks by Ai Weiwei made during his stay in Lesbos have gone on public display for the first time in Athens.

Many of the new pieces are inspired by the migrant crisis on the Greek island, which is the main European entry point for Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

Speaking about his time there, Weiwei said he could "never have imagined conditions like this".

The Chinese artist's exhibition, Ai Weiwei at Cycladic, will remain open until October.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ai Weiwei took thousands of photos on his smartphone to document the refugee crisis, which he has made into a giant collage

The exhibition, at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, includes an huge collage of 12,030 small pictures taken on the artist's camera phone, documenting his time in Lesbos.

"It is such a beautiful island - blue water, sunshine, tourists - and to see the boats come in with desperate children, pregnant women and elderly people, and they all have fear and they all have it in their eyes… You think, how could this happen? I got completely emotionally involved," he said.

Ai Weiwei, who is 59 years old, became well known in 2011 when he was detained by the Chinese authorities for 81 days during a crackdown on political activists.

The artist is also planning a feature-length documentary about the refugee crisis.

"I want it to be a historic account of the tragedy which years, decades, later people will watch and see how we behaved in this moment," he said.

Ai Weiwei at Cylcadic is the artist's first ever exhibition to be displayed in Greece, and closes on 30 October.

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