Saturday 16 December 2017

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei displays giant refugee boat in Prague

The 70-metre long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees is one of the artist's biggest works of art so far (Petr David Josek/AP)
The 70-metre long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees is one of the artist's biggest works of art so far (Petr David Josek/AP)

Chinese conceptual artist and political activist Ai Weiwei has placed his latest refugee-themed installation in Prague, the capital of an EU country that has opposed the bloc's efforts to redistribute migrants among member nations.

The giant black rubber boat with 258 figures onboard, titled The Law of the Journey, attests to Ai's concern with the plight of migrants who embark on the dangerous journey to Europe by sea.

He visited 20 refugee sites across the world, including the Greek island of Lesbos, an entry point for many migrants trying to reach western Europe from Turkey.

"To refuse somebody so desperate is almost a crime," Ai told the Associated Press.

"It's immoral, it's short-sighted, and it is not going to benefit this nation. We cannot lose our fundamental beliefs in human rights and human dignity."

His largest piece so far, the 70-metre (230ft) long black rubber boat hangs from the ceiling at the National Gallery's Trade Fair Palace in the Czech Republic.

The site-specific installation that went on exhibit on Thursday was made in a Chinese factory that produces dinghies used by actual refugees, Ai said.

The 59-year-old artist has exhibited similar works elsewhere.

He used 14,000 discarded life vests collected from the beaches of Lesbos to wrap the columns of Berlin's Konzerthaus and to create lotus blossoms floating on a pond in Vienna's Belvedere park.

The artist also posed as Alan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler whose lifeless body was famously photographed lying face-down on a Lesbos pebble beach.

Ai was criticised for exploiting the child's tragic death.

More than 1.2 million people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe since 2015, data from the International Organisation for Migration shows.

According to the European Commission, the Czech Republic has so far accepted 12 migrants for relocation.

AP

Press Association

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