Ai Weiwei’s exhibition On the Table 2014/2015 in Barcelona: A review in light of its local media reception | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN: 2051-7041
  • E-ISSN: 2051-705X



Ai Weiwei is one of the artists with greater relevance outside China. In Spain, he is one of the Chinese artists to have attained more visibility with the media and art centres, as exemplified by the first exhibition Resistencia y tradición/Resistance and Tradition at the Andalusian Contemporary Art Centre of Seville (2013), and with On the Table: Ai Weiwei at the Palau the la Virreina in Barcelona (2014–2015). It is worth noting that both exhibitions by Ai Weiwei have become the most visited in the history of the aforementioned institutions. With the aim to expand on the reception of the prolific and heterogeneous trajectory of Ai Weiwei in Spain, I will analyse the exhibition’s discourse of On the Table and its impact on the local and national media. The article will take into account the political aims of the Palau de la Virreina’s director in relating Ai Weiwei’s public persona with the political message that the Catalan institutions wished to convey in connection with the right to self-determination for Catalonia and the terms of their relationship with the Spanish state. The Palau de la Virreina opted for an artist who symbolizes – in the western media – the fight for democracy and freedom of speech. In order to delve deeper into such ideas, I will focus on the controversies and expectations that Ai Weiwei generates as an artist, as well as his role as a political activist.


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