22 rubber dinghies for the façade of Palazzo Strozzi

Reframe is Ai Weiwei’s major new installation involving two of Palazzo Strozzi’s façades: twenty-two large orange rescue dinghies grafted onto Palazzo Strozzi’s windows draw the public’s attention to the fate of refugees who place their lives in jeopardy every day by crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

The installation, a product of the artist’s personal involvement and commitment as an activist in the refugee humanitarian crisis, offers the city of Florence a major opportunity to use culture to focus attention on the migrant issue.

The Reframe installation (2016), of which this artist’s impression offers an exclusive preview, comprises a series of rescue dinghies framing the windows of Palazzo Strozzi’s Piano Nobile like some out-of-the-ordinary decorative scheme grafted onto an existing structure, in this case the austere and solid façade of a Renaissance Palazzo. It is a work that prompts us to stop and think. This time Ai Weiwei’s criticism is not directed at China but at the West, recalling the tragedy of those who set out on a gruelling and an almost hopeless journey towards Europe’s shores. But while these lightweight dinghies on the façade hark back to the fragile vessels to which the refugees cling while at sea, at the same time they evoke the way in which migrants attempt to graft themselves onto a new location, a strange environment such as Europe with its very different social and cultural makeup.

Through his action and through such works as Reframe, Ai Weiwei shows us that he sees the world in a different perspective and he acquaints us with a vision of art bent on seeking out the deeper significance of the human being. In fact that is one of the reasons why has been called a latter-day “Renaissance man”, an artist who, employing different artistic genres ranging from architecture, the cinema and photography to poetry, sculpture and painting, can turn an artefact or an inert object (such as a rubber dinghy) into the heart-rending cry of mankind. Ai Weiwei is not just one of the contemporary art system’s many stars, nor is he simply an activist; rather, he is a free thinker who is convinced that art should play an extremely important social and political role in the noblest sense of the term.

The installation has been made possible thanks to a decisive contribution from Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze