Controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei picked Chile for his first Latin American project, unveiling an enormous mural earlier this month at the Parque Cultural de Valparaíso.
Part of the international “Of Bridges and Borders” exhibition, the painting depicts the Senkaku Islands that have been the subject of a long standing land dispute between Japan and China.
The painting also bears in large print a verse of Chinese poetry along with it’s Spanish translation: “Se levanta un hombre/ Con una lupa/ Busca en el mapa/ Un lugar en el que nunca ha estado” (A man stands/ With a magnifying glass/ He searches the map/ For a place to which he’s never been).
This verse is taken from the poem Cabo de Chile by Ai Weiwei’s father, Ai Qing. Pablo Neruda was great friends with Ai Qing, and stayed with him during a visit to China in the 1950s. Like the painting, Cabo de Chile was dedicated to the Chilean poet.
The art movement “Of Bridges and Borders” began in 2009 and has inspired exhibitions in more than 20 cities in 13 countries worldwide. The Chilean installment opened on March 16 under the curatorship of Swiss-Argentine Sigismond de Vajay. The multi-discipline exhibition includes paintings, performances, and films from twenty artists from around the world, and aims to, “Provoke the public to reflect on the experience of a world in permanent connection.”
Atop Cerro Carcel with a sweeping view of the city, Parque Cultural de Valparaíso, also known as the Ex-Carcel, was built in 1873 and served as a fort and then a prison until 1999. The building has been subject to ongoing transformation since that year, acting as a public park, community center, and an art museum, along the way to its current role as the city’s cultural center.
For more information, visit the center’s website here.