The Knoxville Museum of Art Presents Exhibition by Internationally Acclaimed Artist Ai Weiwei

April 8, 2011

The Knoxville Museum of Art presents Ai Weiwei: Dropping the Urn (Ceramic Works, 5000 BCE-2010 CE) May 13-August 7, 2011. This is the first solo exhibition of works by the prominent Chinese artist to be presented in the United States outside of New York.

Ai Weiwei is perhaps China’s most famous contemporary artist. His artworks simultaneously celebrate and call into question Chinese culture and history. Organized by Arcadia University Art Gallery, Ai Weiwei: Dropping the Urn features a selection of ceramic works and photographs ranging from 1993 to the present. In these works, Ai Weiwei transforms ancient ceramic objects, including 7,000-year old Neolithic urns and Han dynasty vessels, by painting them with a “Coca-Cola” logo, dipping them into vats of industrial paint, smashing them on the ground, or grinding them into powder.

The largest piece in the exhibition is what appears to be a large pile of tiny sunflower seeds, a common street snack in China. Each seed, produced to scale, was painstakingly hand-crafted from porcelain. Weighing precisely one ton, the porcelain seeds were created by a team of workers in the town of Jingdezhen, China where porcelain has been produced for the past 1,700 years.

KMA Executive Director David Butler emphasizes the importance and timeliness of having this exhibition in Knoxville given the world-wide publicity about the artist’s contentious relationship with Chinese authorities: “Ai Weiwei is an artist of tremendous international stature whose work speaks to universal values and human rights and demonstrates the power of art to move us both intellectually and politically.”

An exhibition catalog is available, produced by Arcadia University in collaboration with the Office for Discourse Engineering, distributed in the United States by RAM Publications.

Ai Weiwei: Dropping the Urn is curated by Richard Torchia and Gregg Moore. The exhibition is organized by Arcadia University Art Gallery and supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Exhibition Initiative.

KMA presenting sponsors include Nancy and Stephen Land. Media sponsors include AT&T Real Yellow Pages, Digital Media Graphix, Kurt Zinser Designs, and WBIR.

The Knoxville Museum of Art The Knoxville Museum of Art celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee, presents new art and new ideas, serves and educates diverse audiences, and enhances Knoxville’s quality of life. The museum is located in downtown Knoxville at 1050 World’s Fair Park and is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10am–5pm, Friday 10am–8pm, and Sunday 1pm-5pm. Admission and parking are free. For more information, contact Angela Thomas at 865.934.2034 or visit