Ai Weiwei: Grapes
Chinese artist, architect, curator, and activist Ai Weiwei often works with mass accumulations of single objects, including such diverse elements as bicycles, sunflower seeds, backpacks, life jackets, and crabs. The historical and cultural significance of the materials Ai uses are an essential element of almost all of his sculptures.
On special long-term loan from a private collection, Grapes is a signature Ai work made out of 26 stools from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The common three-legged wood stool is an antiquated domestic object in today’s Chinese society. Every home had classically crafted wood stools that were handed down for generations, but they have been replaced by plastic and aluminum variations as China has modernized. Since 1997, Ai has collected these unique, handcrafted wood stools and created a variety of sculptures and installations with them.
This sculptural accumulation of ancient stools focuses attention on questions of the exportation of cultural values and historical knowledge, the clash between old and new ideas in China, and international art and antiques markets. Grapes serves as a metaphor about China’s socialist history, which requires the individual to set aside his or her personal interests in favor of those of the larger group, or the state.
Ai Weiwei (Chinese, born 1957), Grapes, 2015. 26 wooden stools from the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), 70 x 82 ½ x 76 ¾ in. (180 x 210 x 195 cm). Private collection.