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Megacities Asia

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Through July 17 

Although only China’s Ai Weiwei is a household name in the United States, the 11 artists from five Asian cities showcased in Megacities Asia pack a cumulative punch. The overall collection is provocative, visually spectacular, and often profound, particularly the core of nine artworks located in the MFA’s Gund Gallery (the others are found elsewhere in the museum, with one outside the Huntington entrance and one near Faneuil Hall).

8' × 12', 2009, Hema Upadhyay. Aluminum, scrap metal from cars, enamel paint, plastic, found objects, M-Seal sealant, resin, and hardware. Photo: Anil Rahe; courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo: Anil Rahe.

Like Asian cities themselves, the show’s art varies in texture, color, material, form, and experience. Metal and plastic represent materials used by many low-income city dwellers, while wood, brick, and bamboo represent historic buildings demolished by rapid urban growth. Immersive works have material from typical Mumbai houses (Hema Upadhyay’s 8'×12') and from demolished Shanghai homes (Hu Xiangcheng’s Doors Away from HomeDoors Back Home); Asim Waqaf’s enterable and touchable bamboo-and-rope structure, Venu, thrilled children visiting the exhibit.

Upadhyay’s Build me a nest so I can rest is particularly poignant. Dozens of anonymous, migratory birds, each clutching a message in its beak, speak to new city dwellers’ diverse views and life stories. And a destroyed or vanished past animates Jeon Yongseok/flyingCity’s Drifting Producers series, Yin Xiuzhen’s Temperature, and both works by Ai Weiwei. Megacities Asia installations outside the Gund Gallery are large, loud, and colorful, like the iconic architecture of new Asian cities. Each of these works is designed for photography, and best of all is Choi Jeong Hwa’s Fruit Tree at Faneuil Hall’s Marketplace Center: a selfie there will provide one free admission to the MFA.

Image gallery: Megacities Asia

Forever, 2003, Ai Weiwei, Beijing. Photo: Chuck Choi.

Drifting Producers: Power of Cheonggyecheon, 2007-09/2015, flyingCity/Yongseok Jeon, Seoulijing.

temperature, 2009-2010, Yin Xiuzhen, Beijing

Super-Natural, 2011, Han Seok Hyun, Seoul

Chaosmos Mandala, 2016, Choi Jeong-Hwa, Seoul