Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor Call for Protest Walk for Refugees

But what's with the middle fingers?

Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor have spoken out against the refugee crisis.
Photo: via Instagram @dirty_corner

Everything is ready for the public opening of Ai Weiwei’s hotly anticipated survey at London’s Royal Academy of Arts on Saturday.

Ai’s exhibition has become the first major event of the season, generating roaring write-ups in national newspapers like the Guardian, which called the show “momentous and moving,” giving it a rare five-star review.

So it comes as no surprise that Britain’s own art star and media darling, Anish Kapoor—who has been making headlines all summer due to the repeated vandalism of his controversial large-scale sculpture Dirty Corner in Versailles, among other news—has joined forces with Ai on his London stint.

And, since both are devoted Instagram users (Ai being a long-time Insta-star, Kapoor more of a newbie), it’s only natural that the two artists took to the social media platform to share their art bro encounters.

Last night, Kapoor posted an image to his Instagram account, taken at Ai’s show in the RA, which showed the two artists raising their middle fingers (well, it looks Ai was taking the selfie, so he could only raise his left one) and making a call to the public to join them in a protest walk across London carrying a blanket to symbolize the plight of millions of refugees.

The full message reads:

We knew that Ai was a big fan of giving the finger, a motif he has used on many occasions in his work. It is used in his photographic series Study of Perspective (1995–2011), in which his middle finger is raised to several landmarks across the world, including Tate Modern and the White House.

Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective, Paris Eiffel Tower (1997).<br>Photo: via Geffken Miyamoto

Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective, Paris Eiffel Tower (1997).
Photo: via Geffken Miyamoto

What we didn’t know is that Kapoor was such a fan of the gesture, too. Or, more crucially, what exactly those middle fingers stand for in their plea for protesting the plight of refugees.

Their Instagram followers have received the image and call for action with mixed feelings. Some of them seemed keen, like @artlove_germany, who enthused “Wonderful idea!”, while others remained a little more skeptical.

An Instagram user called @7pemery, wrote: “This is like two teenage kids throwing a fit, they’re even taking their blankets to comfort them,” while @zzyizzyparker, perhaps reminding the art stars that most of us mere mortals have day jobs, wrote: “We’ll prob all be working Thurs but this would be a good gesture to do!”

It is precisely the gestural quality of Ai and Kapoor’s refugee walk what some might find jarring, given the circumstances. After all, the refugee crisis is a very real, very pressing matter that demands the urgent attention and speedy reaction of politicians from all over the world. While some might find Ai and Kapoor’s action symbolic and poetic, others may find it flippant. Because, at the end of the day, the refugee crisis has nothing to do with these artists’ selfies and their middle fingers.

Click below to see a trailer of Ai Weiwei’s forthcoming exhibition at London’s Royal Academy of Arts.

Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor will meet at 10am on Thursday, September 17, to walk from the Royal Academy of Arts towards east London as a tribute to the world’s refugees.

Related stories:

French Politician Attacks Anish Kapoor After a Decision To Keep Versailles Vandalism

Chinese Authorities Return Passport to Ai Weiwei after 4 Years

Anish Kapoor to Sue Over Chinese Knock-Off of Chicago’s ‘Bean’ Sculpture

Ai Weiwei’s Berlin Welcome Marred by Accusations of Playing Down China’s Human Rights Violations

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