Ai Weiwei - 20th Century & Contemporary Art New York Tuesday, July 18, 2023 | Phillips
  • Exploring the interplay between authenticity, value and cultural heritage, Ai Weiwei’s Colored Vases, 2014, uproots tradition and dips it in industrial paint. Consisting of six Neolithic vases, the work is both rebellious and deeply reverent to Chinese history, critiquing both cultural and historical vandalism in turn. Toying between the high and low with these painted dipped vases, Weiwei shifts the narrative surrounding the artist's role by placing these objects in conversation with contemporary visual culture writ large. Weiwei discusses his practice by saying, “My work always has some kind of contradiction within it.”The present work is grounded in the idea of such a juxtaposition: contrast in medium, color, and origin. Weiwei uses this series to blend binaries present in his practice, between East and West, and the polarities of old and new.


    “All my works play with art history. As a contemporary artist, I can never leave the context of what contemporary philosophy or aesthetics are.”
    —Ai Weiwei


    By aesthetically manipulating a series of historical objects, the question arises: is Weiwei fracturing our interpretations of both the richness of the past, the ephemeral qualities of the present and somehow breaking our ideas of both? Through this work's physical process, Weiwei creates a dialogue between culture, value, and ownership. Via his tactful manipulation of these previously anonymous vases, Weiwei is claiming these objects and their canonical weight as his own. By reframing tradition, Weiwei confronts Chinese artistic authority while engaging an international audience, making Colored Vases an essential piece in his rebellious oeuvre.



    i Ai Weiwei, quoted in Tim Marlow, John Tancock, Daniel Rosbottom and Adrian Locke, eds., Ai Weiwei, London, 2015, p. 27.

    • Provenance

      Galleria Continua, Rome
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2015


Colored Vases

signed and dated "Weiwei 2014" on the underside of the blue and yellow vase
industrial paint on Neolithic vases, in 6 parts
smallest 5 3/4 x 5 3/4 x 6 1/4 in. (14.6 x 14.6 x 15.9 cm)
largest 6 7/8 x 6 7/8 x 7 in. (17.5 x 17.5 x 17.8 cm)
installation dimensions variable

Executed in 2014.

Full Cataloguing

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $107,950

Contact Specialist

Nina Piro
Specialist, Associate Vice President

20th Century & Contemporary Art

New York Auction 18 July 2023