Ai Weiwei, Marble Chair (No. 14), 2008. Photo Phillips de Pury & Company
PROVENANCE : Phillips de Pury & Company London Selling Exhibition, Ai Weiwei: Four Movements, March 2009
EXHIBITED : London, Phillips de Pury & Company, Ai Weiwei: Four Movements, 3 - 28 March 2009
London, Ivory press Art+Books Space, Ai Weiwei. Ways Beyond Art, 19 May - 24 July 2009 (another example exhibited)
LITERATURE : E. Foster, H.U. Obrist, Ai Weiwei. Ways Beyond Art, London, 2009, p. 51 (another example illustrated)
Ai Weiwei’s Marble Chair from 2008, is a piece that is both contemporary and an evocation of traditional Chinese art. In the 1950s, after being denounced as a rightist, the Chinese government sent Ai WeiWei’s father, the poet Ai Qi, and his family into exile. The family was allowed to keep very few items, one of them being a traditional yoke back chair. When he returned to China in 1993, after living in the United States for twelve years, Weiwei started collecting Ming and Qing dynasty furniture. Between 1997 and 2000, he produced works for his ‘Furniture’ series based on the antique tables and chairs he had acquired. The furniture from that period has been assembled without using nails and the components could therefore be rearranged piece by piece. Weiwei disassembled and reconstructed this furniture into hybrid forms, joining two stools together, for example, thus forming a minimalist sculpture.
By using marble for the present lot, Weiwei plays with the perceptions and connotations that this material carries. In 2011, the artist made a surveillance camera made out of marble titled Surveillance Camera and in so doing, he wittingly and archly brought together contradictions between usefulness and monumentality. Similarly, Marble Chair conflates East and West by using a material deeply associated with the Western canon of art for a traditional Chinese object. Likewise, he plays with the inherent contradiction of a chair, with all the appearance of being made by wooden joinery, being made from a single piece of stone. Instead of being hand carved with wooden joinery, the chair is carved from a single piece of marble. In contrast to wood, marble translates into continuity and eternity and grandeur, and the chair becomes a comment on modernity and the passage of time and how the past is honoured.
“ I wouldn’t say I’ve become more radical: I was born radical.” Ai Weiwei
Phillips de Pury & Company. Contempory Art. 28 june 2012. London http://www.phillipsdepury.com