Sabine Eckmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Sabine Eckmann

Ai Weiwei and museum curator Sabine Eckmann examine "The Odyssey," a massive frieze in his exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Museum. In the foreground is a detail of "Forever Bicycle," a sculpture made from 720 bicycles. [11/8/19]
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

When does a mirror selfie become high art? 

For artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, it happened in 2008 when he photographed himself inside an elevator. Chinese authorities arrested him to prevent him from testifying in the trial of a fellow activist. 

His now-iconic selfie, “Illumination,” is part of his exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis. The work ranges from delicate ceramics fashioned with ancient Chinese techniques to a carefully stacked pile of rubble. 

The wide-ranging show reflects Weiwei’s deep interest in honoring the past, while reshaping it into something new. 

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum's new facade is 34 feet tall and made of pleated stainless steel.
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum once sat at the edge of a parking lot, shielded from passing traffic by a row of trees. 

Following an expansion project that closed the museum for a year and a half, it’s back open and much more visible. 

A gleaming, 34-foot-tall facade made of pleated stainless steel now calls attention to the museum of modern and contemporary art. Behind that facade are new galleries that increase the museum’s exhibition space by 50%. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 10, 2009 - Post-1945 German avant-garde art enjoys a limited, yet dedicated following in the United States. Not beautiful in a conventional sense, the installations, sculptures, paintings and other modes of representation from this period possess an uneasy aesthetic that is best understood within the Germany’s unique Cold War context.