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  • Provenance

    Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    The two leit motivs of Ai Wei Wei's body of work are unquestionably the relevant issues of Contemporary Chinese art and the distinctive way he incorporates diverse currents of modernity, (both from the East and the West) into his art. The present Lot Coca-Cola, 2012 superbly epitomizes these two currents. A fundamental issue of contemporary Chinese art is the imminent loss of material culture due to accelerated modernization, seen in how traditional systems of production are affected by the global economy. This simple vessel with the word Coca-Cola written on it is an original ceramic from the Han dynasty (220 BC - 220 AD), the second Imperial Dynasty, considered the Golden Age in Chinese history. In regard to aesthetics, these early ceramics were austere in shape and the glosses emulated earthy, arid colors as we can see in the present lot. It was only later in Chinese ceramic history that we see the incredibly ornate vessels to which we are more accustomed to. Furthermore, during the Han dynasty, “people sought beauty, aesthetic effects, and hungered for luxury.”

    In contemporary Chinese art, people continue to seek beauty and aesthetic effects, but also hunger for the mass production that will eventually lead to luxury. By painting the word Coca-Cola on the vessel, Wei Wei is not being merely irreverent; he is alluding to brand globalization and mass production, arguably epitomized in the Coca-Cola company. At the same time, he is juxtaposing Chinese tradition and Western currents of modernity: the ancient ceramic embodies the stark contrast with the ready-made, as some of these early ceramics (although made in volume) were part of small productions from the imperial kilns. Finally, although the shape might seem simple to our Western eye, the entire production process of these ceramics was complex, thoroughly studied and researched, excruciatingly meticulous, starting from the choice of regional minerals used in the clay to the type of gloss and the kiln where the vessels were fired at precise temperatures and times. Contradistinctively, readymade objects exude common, inexpensive materials, mass produced and disposable, with none of the sense of tradition being passed down as with ancient Chinese ceramics. Thus, Coca Cola, 2012 epitomizes the best of contemporary Chinese art seeking to reconcile the clash of modernity and tradition, Western globalization and Chinese culture.



Han dynasty vase, paint
15 x 12 2/3 x 12 2/3 in. (38.1 x 32.2 x 32.2 cm)
Signed and dated "Ai Weiwei 2012" on the underside. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm