Issue 63

Ai Weiwei

The cover image for this issue of Artkrush is a photograph of Ai Weiwei's 2007 sculpture Collapsed Template, which is currently on view at documenta 12. Under the Chinese artist's direction, 20 assistants stacked doors and windows salvaged from Ming- and Qing-dynasty houses demolished in China's recent building boom. When a storm knocked down the 39-foot-tall structure, Ai refused to rebuild, deferring instead to the forces of nature.

Born in Beijing in 1957, Ai grew up under the constraints of communist China and witnessed his father, poet Ai Qing, face years of political exile. After attending the Beijing Film Academy and establishing the Stars, a collective of defiant experimental artists, Ai went to New York's East Village, cultivating an interest in pop and neo-Dadaist art. Upon his return to China, Ai produced works such as Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo from 1994, a merged historical/pop artifact, and A Study of Perspective, which followed Ai's protesting middle finger from the White House to Tiananmen Square. A leader in Beijing's own East Village scene, Ai mentored young artists including Zhang Huan and published Black Cover Book, a national artists' exchange of project ideas and philosophies.

With a practice spanning sculpture, photography, and installation art, Ai has recently found success as an architectural consultant and designer. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the architects of the Beijing National Stadium, modeled their design on Ai's "bird's nest" plan, which was inspired by antique Chinese baskets. In 2003, Ai founded the firm Fake Design and has used his projects to connect artists from various provinces and disciplines. Though his medium and his country have changed, Ai remains rooted in China's history and dedicated to uniting its creative people.

Ai's work is widely collected and published in several books, including Fragments Beijing 2006, Works Beijing 1993-2003, and Beijing 10/2003, all published by Timezone 8. He is represented by Galerie Urs Meile in Lucerne, Switzerland. (LM)

Ai Weiwei
Collapsed Template, 2007
Wooden doors and windows from destroyed Ming- and Qing-dynasty houses and wooden base
Photo: Julia Zimmermann
© Julia Zimmermann/documenta GmbH
All Rights Reserved