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Ai Weiwei show draws more than 145,000 to AGO

Ai Weiwei in a scene from Alison Klayman’s AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY.

An exhibition of large-scale works by noted Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei drew an impressive 145,407 visitors to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto during its 10-week stay there, the AGO reported Friday.

The touring exhibition, titled Ai Weiwei: According to What?, had its sole Canadian berth at the AGO, which closed its run Oct. 27. Almost 25 per cent of the Ai audience was first-time visitors, the AGO says.

Interest in the exhibition – the first significant Canadian showcase for the artist Art Review magazine in 2011 named "the most influential person in the international art world" – was boosted by numerous ancillary events, most notably the outdoor installation at Toronto City Hall, in June, of Ai's bronze sculptures of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.

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In addition, in October, an expanded version of Forever Bicycles, a 2011 Ai work, was mounted at City Hall, featuring 3,200 interconnected bicycles rising to a height of three storeys.

AGO director Matthew Teitelbaum also had a live public Skype conversation in September with the 56-year-old artist whose activities have been largely confined to his Beijing studio since Chinese authorities seized his passport last year.

Visitations to According to What? were enough to make it one of the 15 best-attended exhibitions in the AGO's 113-year history. The gallery's best-attended show remains 1979's The Treasures of Tutankhamun for which more than 750,000 tickets were sold for an eight-week run.

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