Ai Weiwei - Contemporary Evening Sale London Tuesday, July 1, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Friedman Benda, New York
    Private Collection, Europe

  • Catalogue Essay

    Outspoken, highly talented and influential, Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most notorious contemporary artists. A major political activist, Weiwei was arrested by authorities in 2011 and imprisoned for three months, resulting in widespread protest. Against a backdrop of strict censorship, his groundbreaking oeuvre is deeply concerned with current political and social issues. His vast and varied output includes the monumental installation, ‘The Unilever Series: Sunfower Seeds’ exhibited in Tate Modern between 2010 and 2011 and his collaboration with architects Herzog and De Meuron in designing the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

    At a time when the West is increasingly engaging with Chinese Contemporary art, Ai Weiwei has transcended the label ‘Chinese artist’. From 1981-1993 he worked in the United States, primarily in New York, as such his artistic forebears belong predominantly to the Western avant-garde tradition, including: Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Marcel Duchamp. He became highly interested in the concept of the ready-made, thus Marble Chair can be understood as creating a dialogue between utility, artistic production and intentionality.

    The present lot, carved from a single piece of stone, at first glance brings to mind notions of comfort, rooted in domestic, universal familiarity. However, this is undermined by the unconventional choice of material which introduces a sense of grandeur and an edge of humour, reminiscent of the ironic undertones of Warhol’s artistic practice. Marble is deeply associated with the Western canon of art, therefore by using it for a typically Chinese object, a yoke back chair, the artist converges traditions of the East and West. Here, the purity of form leaves a lasting, ultimately satisfying impression of untarnished perfection. Conceptually, this poignant work is far more complex than the functional idea of sitting on the chair itself. The precious nature of the material, the effort of production and the narrative content create a powerful, provocative commentary on the nature of the human condition.


Marble Chair

117 x 58.5 x 44.8 cm (46 1/8 x 23 x 17 5/8 in.)
Titled, numbered and dated 'MARBLE CHAIR 013 2008-06' on a label affixed to the underside.

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £92,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Evening Sale

London Auction 2 July 2014 7pm