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  • Provenance

    Ivorypress, Madrid
    Private Collection
    Phillips, London, 15 October 2015, lot 200
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    A compelling and ominous example of Ai Weiwei’s ceramic production, Oil Spills, 2006, presents a collection of oil puddles in glistening black porcelain, scattered directly on the floor. Alluding to environmental pollution and oil spills at sea, the blown-up blots bear a portentous presence that is only heightened by the porcelain’s three-dimensionality and shimmer. Though porcelain may appear an unlikely material to represent the obscurity and heaviness of oil, Ai’s decision was all but coincidental. Transcending its associations to history and aesthetic delicacy, the ceramic in this work takes on political undertones: sculpted, glazed, coloured, and fired in a kiln in Jingdezhen, – China’s porcelain manufacturing centre – the black pools are transformed into hazardous phenomena through shape and name, adopting the appearance of crude oil and thus eschewing the pristine evocations of immaculate porcelain. Trailing across the floor, the ten oil puddles are emblematic of the tone and purpose that Ai Weiwei carried throughout his career in media such as sculpture, photography, installation and performance. They serve as a commentary on the nature and effects of consumerist culture, namely the dire environmental hazards entailed by excessive oil usage.

23

Oil Spills

glazed porcelain, in 10 parts
part 1) 3 x 100.5 x 95 cm (1 1/8 x 39 5/8 x 37 3/8 in.)
part 2) 3 x 73.5 x 69 cm (1 1/8 x 28 7/8 x 27 1/8 in.)
part 3) 2 x 96 x 89.5 cm (0 3/4 x 37 3/4 x 35 1/4 in.)
part 4) 2.5 x 95 x 95 cm (0 7/8 x 37 3/8 x 37 3/8 in.)
part 5) 3 x 98 x 101 cm (1 1/8 x 38 5/8 x 39 3/4 in.)
part 6) 2 x 46 x 39 cm (0 3/4 x 18 1/8 x 15 3/8 in.)
part 7) 2.5 x 46 x 47.5 cm (0 7/8 x 18 1/8 x 18 3/4 in.)
part 8) 2 x 94.5 x 96 cm (0 3/4 x 37 1/4 x 37 3/4 in.)
part 9) 3 x 97 x 92 cm (1 1/8 x 38 1/4 x 36 1/4 in.)
part 10) 4.8 x 130.5 x 130.5 cm (1 7/8 x 51 3/8 x 51 3/8 in.)

Executed in 2006.

Estimate
£70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for £93,750

Contact Specialist
Simon Tovey
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

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London Auction 11 April 2019