Between the installations “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” at the Hirshhorn and “Fragments” at the Sackler (as well as the documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” over the summer), we’ve seen a lot of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei lately. Get to know him and his authority-questioning, genre-bending oeuvre even better at the Hirshhorn’s massive new exhibit, “According to What?” — the first North American survey of Ai’s work. Here are three pieces you shouldn’t miss:
‘Cube Light’ (2008) A new acquisition for the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection, the 14-foot-tall “Cube Light,” above, is part of the artist’s famed chandelier series. It’s a reference to director Sergei Eisenstein’s 1928 film “October,” in which a shaking chandelier signifies social instability.
‘Coca-Cola Vase’ (2007) This vase bearing a Coca-Cola logo looks simple until you read the placard and realize that the vase itself dates from the Neolithic age. Coke: The Real Thing since 5000 B.C.
‘Names of the Student Earthquake Victims Found by the Citizens’ Investigation’ (2008-12) This sobering wall installation lists the names of the children who died in collapsed schoolhouses during Sichuan’s 2008 earthquake, compiled by Ai’s Citizens’ Investigation project. The names of the 5,000-plus dead are read aloud in an audio recording reminiscent of a classroom roll-call.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue and 7th Street SW; through Feb. 24, free; 202-633-1000. (L’Enfant Plaza)