Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Art Tour Series: Ai Wei Wei

Over the Christmas holiday I visited my favorite art galleries in DC. At the Hirshorn Gallery until  February 24, 2013, there is a fascinating exhibit by the world reknown Chinese artist, Ai Wei Wei (b. 1957).  I have been following this artist/activist this past year as he has made history with his social statements and art. Under constant disapproval from the Chinese government, he was jailed for 81 days in 2011, yet his work still continued while imprisoned. There is a video surveillance camera on his studio in China, since he is banned from leaving the country. His blog about art, life and politics has been shut down by his government.  This fuels his art and his conviction to  connect art and history with politics. 

Wei Wei's work transforms tragedy into art, demonstrated by his creations inspired by the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 where 5,000 schoolchildren were killed. He has memorialized the children in a wall of names, and in a ceiling mounted "snake" made of 5,000 backpacks like those that were used by the children. Part of the social statement made by his art is to employ hundreds of workers and pay them to work on his art projects therefore helping the economy and infusing art into the people.

"Snake Ceiling" 2009

   "Wenchuan Steel Rebar", 2008-12.  He reclaimed the rebar from the Sichuan earthquake    rubble and paid workers to straighten 40 tons of rebar, which took two years. 

   This wooden " icosahedron" made from Huali wood was assembled without nails.

   In "Kippe". 2006, Iron wood was salvaged from dismantled temples as were iron parallel bars from the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911. According to Wei Wei, there was a set of parallel bars and a basketball hoop in every schoolyard.  People would stop and comment on the beautifully stacked firewood in the region where he grew up.

   40 antique wooden stools were reclaimed to draw attention to the art form of common            objects.

   His Han Dynasty vase series, takes antique vases and colors them with industrial paints.

 His vases evoke the viewer to consider questions of authenticity and value of original historical works in contrast with society today.

   In his furniture series, 81 "Moon Chests" were made with traditional joinery methods    and have holes that depict, when aligned, the phases of the moon.

   "Cube Light", 2008 explores the manipulation of glass, light and metal that "interrogate conventions of culture, history, politics, and tradition." 

I hope you have enjoyed this recap of the exhibit "According to What?" by Ai Wei Wei.


[sources: personal photos,, exhibit catalog "Ai Weiwei:According to What?"]

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  1. That looks like a fascinating exhibit. I am glad you included some of the intention behind the forms.

  2. That cube lighting is so cool. It looks like a modern igloo.

  3. A fascinating artist and exhibit. Many thanks for sharing the photos, I would not have seen them otherwise.

  4. What a thought provoking exhibit ... thanks for sharing the stories ... I happen to love the Snake! Happy New Year! xo

  5. Thanks for sharing Nancy, what an amazing talent and story. His works are just beautiful...

  6. You look like a doll in front of that fantastic cube light!

  7. Very interesting and so his concepts and how he transformed everyday items to make a statement.

  8. What a fascinating exhibit! Thanks for sharing all the details. That snake ceiling creeps me out, but it's pretty neat.

  9. Nancy, let me know the next time you go to the museums....will join you :) A very good friend of mine is a docent at the Hirshorn. I've not seen the Ai Wei Wei show....will go soon.

  10. That cube light is fab!! Thanks for sharing the pictures, Nancy!

  11. wao!! inspiring art....all of these works are so challenging. Thanks for both your comment today!! you made my day.

  12. Heard about him in NPR but never knew how amazing his works are! your so lucky to see these up close! Thanks!

  13. Amazing artistry in various forms - the wood pieces are quite extraordinary and that cube light is stunning! I love the vases, too. Would have loved to have seen this exhibition.

  14. Wow, those are amazing pieces. Love that snake on the ceiling. Thanks for sharing this with us Nancy - I'm sure I never would have come across this artist/exhibit on my own. Happy New Year to both of you!

  15. Nancy, this was incredible! I am searching my brain and my heart for something worth while to post about! This topped everything! It is so real….and so raw if that makes any sense at all! Loved it! Wish there was an antique show coming up there to give us reason to come and see this exhibit as well shop for the shop! I truly loved this post! Thanks for sharing such wonderful art with us!


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