Ai Weiwei, a name who must not need any introduction, is a phenomenal Chinese contemporary artist and activist. Born and grew up in the northwest of China. As an activist and an artist, he is a perfect blend of the masterpiece he creates by providing poetry in the sculptures, photographs, and public works where he tends to display the cultural tradition, social norms, and issues of china. He’s one of notable works are sunflowers seed and Beijing national stadium. He produced architectural projects, photographs, and videos through his artwork triggered much Chinese authority.

1001 Chairs, 2007 Sheet1
(Ai Weiwei © Gardinermuesuem)

1. 1001 Chairs, 2007

We know him for his progressive and thought-provoking ideologies; they invited him to take part in a documentary, a contemporary art exhibition which is held in Germany every five years. The theme which was for this was “fairy tale”. No one would have thought he will come up with an outstanding. He imported 1001 Ming and Qing Dynasty chairs. Which were originally imported from China and had a history of about 500 years? At first, it wasn’t an impressive thought but when the visitors admired the chair from the distance, it boosted the thought behind this of normality and fantasy. It doesn’t even stop here he brought 1001 Chinese citizens for this exhibition from different backgrounds to let them experience the multiculturalism of china and to understand international communalism.

1001 Chairs, 2007 Sheet2
(1001 Chairs by Ai Weiwei, 2007, Kassel, Germany)
1001 Chairs, 2007 Sheet3
(1001 Chairs by Ai Weiwei, 2007, Kassel, Germany)

2. Sunflower Seeds, 2010

Amongst his most famous artwork, sunflower seeds turned out to be the most influential to attract tens of thousands of visitors to London’s Tate Modern. This artwork comprised 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds well-crafted and handcrafted with delicacy. Initially, the visitors could feel through the entire exhibition but due to concern that it will produce more porcelain dust; they exhibited in a unique arrangement.

The true meaning behind this was to represent the people of China, these seeds were made from ceramic by 1,600 artisans in the city of Jingdezhen. On one side it represented the uniformity of the Chinese Communist Party, hence it triggered much Chinese authority. And it represents the idea of “mass” it shows the true concept of unity in diversity, how magic happens when all people come together to create strength.

Sunflower Seeds, 2010 Sheet1
(Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei, 2010, Tate)
Sunflower Seeds, 2010 Sheet2
(Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei, 2010, Tate)
Sunflower Seeds, 2010 Sheet3
(Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei, 2010, Tate)

3. He Xie (River Crabs), 2010

Ai Weiwei’s River crab also have the same conceptual guidelines, it comprises 2300 porcelain river crabs. This artwork doesn’t have any specific arrangement for the exhibition. They exhibited it in an enormous pile as if scooped out of the native territory and dumped abruptly onto the gallery floor. To represent the natural display of the crabs how they behave in their real living being.

Just like the sunflower seeds it also triggered many Chinese authorities. As it resembles chaos, the true meaning of individuality. The name He Xie represents “river crab”, which represents harmony. Articulated with delicacy from porcelain, just like sunflower seeds it represents the uniformity of the Chinese government’s political body.

He Xie (River Crabs), 2010 Sheet
(He Xie (3,200 River Crabs), 2010, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.)
He Xie (River Crabs), 2010 Sheet2
(He Xie (3,200 River Crabs) , 2010, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.)
He Xie (River Crabs), 2010 Sheet3
(He Xie (3,200 River Crabs) by Ai Weiwei, 2010, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.)

4. Forever Bicycles, 2013 

Ai Weiwei has always been provoking with his ideas so it goes the same with “forever bicycles”. He has always featured bicycles in his artwork. The first installation of the bicycle in “very Yao’s” was in 2008. He used Shanghai-based forever company bicycles to create this articulated massive exhibition. The primary intention behind this was to represent Chinese mass production. The meaning of forever bicycles to make a recognition of the massive role that bicycles play in Chinese production society. This artwork included 1000 bicycles which were installed in a 10-meter high space in abstract shape to showcase the Chinese masses and environmental sentiments.

Forever Bicycles, 2013 Sheet1
( Forever Bicycles, 2011, 2630 x 353 x 957 cm, installation view of Ai Weiwei absent, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, 29 Oct 2011 – 29 Jan 2012)
Forever Bicycles, 2013 Sheet2
( Forever Bicycles, 2012.)
Forever Bicycles, 2013 Sheet3
( Forever Bicycles, 2011)
Forever Bicycles, 2013 Sheet4
(Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze, New York City, May 2011)

5. Ai Weiwei – Circles of Animals /Zodiac Heads.

We can consider it Ai Weiwei’s first major public sculpture which was praised nation widely. In this artwork he represented has interpreted the twelve bronze animals representing the Chinese zodiac that once adorned the famed fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan, an imperial retreat in Beijing. These animals include rats, ox, tigers, rabbits, dragons, snakes, horses, sheep, monkeys, roosters, dogs, and pigs) arranged around the Sea Lion Fountain in Civic Center Park. The functioning of this artwork is a water clock fountain designed in the 18th century by two European Jesuits which was cited in the European style garden in Yuanming Yuan. This represented the oversized scale artwork was intentional talks about national identity, uniformity in the individuality of different parts of animals.

Ai Weiwei – Circles of Animals /Zodiac Heads. Sheet1
( Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze, New York City, May 2011)
Ai Weiwei – Circles of Animals /Zodiac Heads. Sheet2
( “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” in Civic Center Park)

6. Ai Weiwei – Template

There might be only materials left that Ai Weiwei hasn’t touched creating his masterpiece. The template is one of them. It relates to embark on a change in china. They composed it of wooden doors and windows rescued from Ming and Qing Dynasty, which were primarily demolished to create a recent development. It is installed outdoor in Germany in 2007  standing independently, but then the structure collapsed after being exposed to rain and wind. The shape which was taken after collapsing turned out to be a master-stroking piece. And hence was praised by many visitors. It represented the resemblance of the Ming and Qing Dynasty to their culture, history, and their art towards the timber.

Ai Weiwei – Template sheet1
(Document a 12, Kassel, 2007. Wooden doors and windows from destroyed Ming and Qing Dynasty houses (1368–1911))
Ai Weiwei – Template sheet2
(Document a 12, Kassel, 2007. Wooden doors and windows from destroyed Ming and Qing Dynasty houses (1368–1911))
Ai Weiwei – Template sheet3
(Document a 12, Kassel, 2007. Wooden doors and windows from destroyed Ming and Qing Dynasty houses (1368–1911))

7. Ai Weiwei–Cube Light.

This artwork represents two words dazzling and charming. As spectacular as his work has been, this eye-catching work of his attracted many visitors all over the world. It was initially introduced in 2008. The massive structured is essentially a chandelier combined with thousands of crystals. This crystal can illuminate from within, the cube emits a beautiful sparkling array of light that is bound to catch the attention of any passer-by. The artist initially wanted to represent the luxury and lavishness of Chinese upper-class life. The gaze, the charm it holds to represent the western culture in china. Cube light is currently on display at his horn museum as one masterpiece.

Ai Weiwei–Cube Light. Sheet1
(Cube of light , Ai Weiwei artwork Hishorn Museum 2014.)
Ai Weiwei–Cube Light. Sheet2
(Cube of light , Ai Weiwei artwork Hishorn Museum 2014.)
Ai Weiwei–Cube Light. Sheet3
(Cube of light , Ai Weiwei artwork Hishorn Museum 2014)

8. Ai Weiwei Fragment 2005

Ai Weiwei Fragment is a politically motivated art, which is made from salvaged woods from Qing Dynasty temples into a beautiful monumental installation. It represents the chaotic and jumbled; they are composed of dismantled sequences of pillars and beams- but from above Weiwei has recreated a unique 3D map of the intricate borders of China showing the fragility of Chinese foreign affairs. The work itself sits in a delicate balance. They are formed by ancient joinery details which do not use nails. Anchored by poles, the “irrational sculpture” is a colossal sculpture that represents the sociological and political background. Highly use of Chinese ironwood made by the carpenters, creating a structure of poles and linking arms.

Ai Weiwei Fragment 2005. sheet1
(Ai Weiwei Studio © Ai Weiwei. Hong Kong. By donation)
Ai Weiwei Fragment 2005. sheet2
(Ai Weiwei Studio © Ai Weiwei. Hong Kong. By donation)
Ai Weiwei Fragment 2005. sheet3
(Ai Weiwei Studio © Ai Weiwei. Hong Kong. By donation)

9. Fountain of light, 2007

As spectacular as the cube of light Ai Weiwei again comes with this charming piece of work “fountain of light”. A twisting steel structure containing 32,400 glass crystals quickly became catching artwork over the night. This artwork is exhibited in such a way that the ceiling has been removed with a crystal dome creating a starry night environment. Fountain of light is based on Russian work, it is organized around an angled steel girder with phenomenal crystals around it. “Fountain of Light” is a part of a series of crystal lamps and chandeliers that Ai Weiwei has made in recent years. It promotes the modernist architecture of Abu Dhabi. The basic materials that have been used are steel, glass crystal, wooden base platforms.

Ai Weiwei Fountain of light, 2007 Sheet1
(Ai Weiwei, Fountain of Light, 2007)
Ai Weiwei Fountain of light, 2007 Sheet2
( Fountain of Light, 2007)
Ai Weiwei Fountain of light, 2007 Sheet3
( Fountain of Light, 2007)

10. Ai Weiwei – Stools, 2013

This installation has quite a resemblance to forever cycles. They installed it at Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin comprising 6000 stools laid out in the gallery. They were originally produced by artisans from the Chinese families in the Ming dynasty. This artwork shows the influence of Duchamps on the exploration of the cultural values of China. A three-legged stool made from wood stands with its character representing the Chinese political body. Like many of his artwork, this one also drew the attention of many Chinese authorities.

Ai Weiwei -Stools, 2013 Sheet1
(Stools (2014) by Ai Weiwei, courtesy of Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin)
Ai Weiwei -Stools, 2013 Sheet2
(Stools (2014) , courtesy of Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin)
Ai Weiwei -Stools, 2013 Sheet3
(Stools (2014) , courtesy of Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin)

He teaches us that artwork has a soul of its own. Bringing the light in the darkness, bringing the old with the new we are blending the tradition with culture. We will bring life to the dead. Artists are an infinite source of visibility you think you create.

Sources:

Ai Weiwei | Biography, Art, & Facts | Britannica

Understanding Ai Weiwei In 10 Works Of Art | TheCollector

Tate Modern’s ‘Sunflower Seed’ Exhibit by Ai Weiwei Closed to Visitors as Health Risk | ArtListings

Ai Weiwei uses thousands of bicycles to create sculptures – Public Delivery

Ai Weiwei – Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads

Ai Weiwei’s “Cube Light” Can Even Make The Hirshhorn Museum Look Small (vice.com)

Ai Weiwei’s Fragments in the US for the first time | art | Phaidon

Ai Weiwei: 13 works to know | Blog | Royal Academy of Arts

Bang: Ai Weiwei’s Latest Installation Made from 886 Antique Stools | Colossal (thisiscolossal.com)

In the frame: The story behind Ai Weiwei’s Fountain of Light at Louvre Abu Dhabi | The National (thenationalnews.com)

Author

Ar. Ritu Gosavi is a published co-author of the two anthology " A poet's Pulse" and "Slice of life" , graduated from College of Architecture Nasik .A brilliant content writer since 2019 bringing light on social and patriarchal norms through her writing page called "Ruminant". An architect, author, and audacious , a classical and japanese literature lover.

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