Posted on March 15, 2018

The Laundromat exhibition by renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei opened at the Fire Station on Wednesday, following an invitation from Qatar Museums (QM) for the artist to bring the powerful commentary on the global refugee crisis to the Gulf region for the first time. The exhibition will be on show at the Garage Gallery in the Fire Station from 15 March – 1 June 2018.

The Doha show highlights Qatar’s development as a creative and artistic hub that encourages dialogue through art. It also reflects the determination of QM and its Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to bring the world's leading contemporary artists to the country to inspire future generations of artists and engage the local community, as well as offer a regional platform to some of the world’s most unique and resonant voices. Artist Ai Weiwei said: “My relationship with Qatar began when I first visited the country last year. I had the chance to tour the Fire Station and meet with the artists who had residencies there. It was a great experience to see the openness with which they practiced their craft and I am pleased to have the chance to bring Laundromat to this space and continue taking my message to people around the world.”

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Khalifa Al Obaidly, Director of Qatar Museums' Fire Station Artist in Residence Programme, said: “We are hugely honoured to present Laundromat at the Fire Station — a place where our residents encounter new perspectives and find inspiration in the work of well-established artists. By bringing such internationally significant talent to Qatar, we hope to spark creativity for a young generation of artists and build an exciting future for Qatar. An exhibition such as this, which brings attention to an issue that has preoccupied a generation, is sure to be of interest to the wider community as well. This is a show that should not be missed, and we urge all those who live in and visit Qatar to experience it.”

Laundromat brings together thousands of articles of clothing collected from a makeshift refugee camp in Idomeni – a small village in northern Greece and official border crossing to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The camp was shut down in May 2016 and the refugees that had been living there were evacuated, leaving their possessions behind. In all, 2,046 items of clothing are displayed alongside personal mementos and photographs. Laundromat also features the film “Idomeni” (2016) which captures the everyday conditions of the refugees up to the moment when the camp was evacuated; and 17,062 Photos Relating to Refugees 1.12-09.08.2016 – a wallpaper which consists of a selection of images taken by Ai Weiwei on his iPhone during the filming of his documentary feature “Human Flow.”

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Alongside Laundromat, other projects by the artist will be exhibited in the Fire Station, including Stacked Porcelain Vases as a Pillar (2017), which represents six themes of the refugee condition — War, Ruins, Journey, Crossing the Sea, Refugee Camps, and Demonstrations, and Tyre (2016), a traditional symbol of safety turned on its head by being crafted from marble and representing the struggle faced by refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea. QM’s Fire Station is a hub for creativity, supporting young artists from Qatar to develop their talent and find their voice. This focus on encouraging dialogue and self-expression makes the Fire Station the perfect location to exhibit Laundromat to inspire the next generation of talented young creatives.

QM’s Khalifa Al Obaidly continued, “The Fire Station has always been a place where artists explore their beliefs and identities through art, something you can see inside and outside of our building. Hosting Laundromat will go a long way in showing our residents and other artists in Qatar the power of art, and how it can impact and muster global attention.”