Day 15 AI WEI WEI, BERLIN BIKINI & THE POLAR BEARS



Inspired as I was by Ai Wei Wei at the bunker yesterday, I wanted to visit his major show at the Martin Gropius Bau. I have always been a little mystified by Ai Wei Wei and though I am aware of his huge global success - I was not entirely sure why. I have no doubts now. This man is a powerhouse of art. That he has managed to crash through oppressive rails and communicate meaningfully to an international community makes him all the more powerful. Every work is fascinating and inventive and there is no sign of derivative or lackluster that sometimes afflicts sensational artists.

One work is a series of Han Dynasty (202BC – 220AD) vases that he has painted with modern automobile paint to illustrate how modern technologies are wiping out the valuable past. How average the actual vessels look now – all chic and shiny… and this is exactly the point.


He has been imprisoned for his liberal ideas and an exact replica of his detention cell has been reconstructed here so you can feel what it was like. As you exit you can watch security video of yourself that was captured from all manner of angles unbeknownst to you while you were inspecting the space. You get a genuine feeling of personal invasion.

In the afternoon I head out to the new Berlin Bikini which is a shopping mall that exhibits up and coming designers in ‘concept’ boxes. It is situated right next to the Tiergarten and famous Berlin zoo and because I have no particular agenda – a whim took me to visit the zoo.

It is an exquisite place – if one could combine the Sydney Botanic Gardens with Taronga Zoo – this would approximate it. The gardens are lush and abundant with spring flowers and the zoo is exotic. The lion stood up and roared just for me; and the polar bears (eisbär) sat long enough for me to sketch them. There were a couple of newborn monkeys that kept my attention for a long time – and animals that I had never seen before such as the Stachelschwein which is like a wombat with spines.

I was determined to have a currywurst today but I just can’t bring myself to – pork sausage has never been my favourite. So I have a schnitzel and salad and head home to pack. I promise to currywust tomorrow as soon as I see a stall.