“Rapture” is being presented in a long, low, riverside building that housed Portugal’s national rope factory starting in the 18th century and now hosts temporary art exhibitions. Ai’s show runs until Nov. 28.
The 85 pieces include some of Ai’s iconic works, as well as new ones produced exclusively in Portugal.
“Forever Bicycles,” from 2015, a giant sculpture using 960 stainless steel bicycles as building blocks, stands at the entrance to the building. Ai’s 16-meter-long (52-foot-long) black inflatable boat with human figures, which alludes to the migration crisis, is also in Lisbon, as are some other of his well-known installations, sculptures, videos and photographs.
Ai notes, however, that most of the works “have never met each other” and are appearing in the same place for the first time.
Ai was arrested at Beijing’s airport in April 2011 and held for 81 days without explanation during a wider crackdown on dissent. He moved to Europe after Chinese authorities returned his passport.
He has traveled across Portugal visiting craftspeople and manufacturers who use traditional Portuguese methods and materials such as marble, textiles, hand-painted tiles and cork.