Ai Weiwei - BRIC Theme Sale London Friday, April 23, 2010 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Urs Meile, Lucerne; Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    Known throughout the world as one of the most outspoken artists in China, Ai Weiwei works across a wide range of media, encompassing installation, sculpture, photography, video and architecture. Throughout his long and acclaimed career, Ai has always followed a trajectory slightly ahead of China's avant-garde, for instance exhibiting subversive paintings of Mao Zedong as early as 1985. During the 1980's, Ai lived in New York City, where his radical conceptual practice was influenced by Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons - all prominent American explorers of artistic territory first opened up by Marcel Duchamp, then founder of Dada. The present lot, a sublime installation of nine brightly-painted Chinese Neolithic pots, belongs to a body of work which Ai began in Beijing in 1993 upon his return from America. Echoing Marcel Duchamp's Fountain of 1917, Ai aquired nine ready-mades - hand crafted ceramic vessels dating from approximately 5000 BCE - and altered them by dipping them in vats of industrial house paint. The result is not only visually stunning, but intellectually stimulating. With the simplest of gestures, Ai has transformed an art-historical object into a conceptual work of art. Thus, a work of craft - or of 'low art' in the context of antiquity - has been elevated to the condition of 'high art' , a contemporary masterpiece fit for a modern art museum.
    "[Ai Weiwei's] gestural practice of defacing and destroying these ancient objects to transform them into works of contemporary art, provide the illusion of clarity alongside the persistent specter of ambiguity. What appears at first like the sublimation of an ancient object's financial value and cultural worth into a different yet parallel carrier of updated value and worth also serves as a satire of the ruling regime's approach to it's patrimony, and of contemporary China's curious relation to its past, a situation where destruction of historical artifacts happens almost daily."
    (Philip Tinari, in exhibition catalogue, Arcadia Unversity Art Gallery, Ai Weiwei: Dropping the Urn Ceramic Works, 5000 BCE-2010 CE, Philadelphia, 2010)


Nine Coloured Pots

Painted neolithic vessels.
Variable dimensions: smallest 33 x 107 cm (13 x 42 1/8 in); largest 39 x 117.2 cm (15 2/5 x 46 1/8 in).

£50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for £115,250

BRIC Theme Sale

23-24 April 2010