Ai Weiwei (B. 1957)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more
Ai Weiwei (B. 1957)

Grapes

Details
Ai Weiwei (B. 1957)
Grapes
32 antique stools
55 1/8 x 65 ¾ x 68 ½in. (140 x 167 x 174cm.)
Executed in 2011
Provenance
Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011.
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. This is such a lot. This indicates both in cases where Christie's holds the financial interest on its own, and in cases where Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold successfully and may incur a loss if the sale is not successful.
On occasion, Christie’s has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale, which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. Christie’s may choose to assume this financial risk on its own or may contract with a third party for such third party to assume all or part of this financial risk. When a third party agrees to finance all or part of Christie’s interest in a lot, it takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold, and will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk out of Christie’s revenues from the sale, whether or not the third party is a successful bidder. The third party may bid for the lot and may or may not have knowledge of the reserves. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the remuneration may be netted against the final purchase price. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. Christie’s guarantee of a minimum price for this lot has been fully financed through third parties
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Post lot text
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

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Lot Essay

‘These stools are commonly used household furniture with hundreds of years of history in China. This symbol is present in every household. I wanted to find how to take this symbol and reassemble it completely, but using the original logic so that it remains true to its original form’
(A. Weiwei, 2015).

‘‘Piled in rows, these three-legged stools make me think, for a moment, of an army – proxies for [Ai’s] ranks of anonymous supporters in China, ready to rise up’
(A. Sooke, ‘Ai Weiwei interview: “I would not separate my art from my so-called activisim”, The Telegraph, 5 September 2015).

‘... it’s an exploration and display of tradition, which adheres to high aesthetic and moral values in a classic sense but at the same time subverts the meaning through manipulating that same language’
(A. Weiwei, 2015).

In Ai Weiwei’s Grapes, 32 antique Chinese stools morph into a gigantic sculptural trompe l’oeil. With their legs fanning outwards in sharp, stalk-like formation, these inert pieces of furniture are transformed into an organic vision of clustered grapes. Executed in 2011, the work takes its place alongside Ai’s celebrated re-appropriations of traditional furniture, including Ming and Qing Dynasty tables and chairs, Neolithic pottery, fourteenth-century doors and seventeenth-century temple beams. By subverting the normative function of his chosen objects, Ai seeks to question the reverential values we impose upon culturally-significant artefacts. Working within the legacy of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘readymades’, Ai exposes the way in which concepts of usefulness and purpose are constructed, handed down and inscribed within our collective consciousness. By choosing to depict grapes – the cherished subject of Western still-life painting – Ai subverts two historical traditions at once. Far from being a nature morte, the present work is a celebration of new potential – of art’s power to disrupt the layers of meaning embedded within its subjects. In Grapes, the domestic and antiquated are transformed into an impossible piece of poetry. An earlier work from the series is currently on view at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, as part of the artist’s major retrospective. Previewing the exhibition, the critic Alastair Sooke commented, ‘Piled in rows, these three-legged stools make me think, for a moment, of an army – proxies for his ranks of anonymous supporters in China, ready to rise up’ (A. Sooke, ‘Ai Weiwei interview: “I would not separate my art from my so-called activisim”, The Telegraph, 5 September 2015).

Discussing Grapes, Ai explains how ‘these stools are commonly used household furniture with hundreds of years of history in China. This symbol is present in every household. I wanted to find how to take this symbol and reassemble it completely, but using the original logic so that it remains true to its original form. This is something that I’ve been interested in trying for a long time, including the earlier furniture series’ (Ai Weiwei, 2015). Antique chairs were notably deployed in his performance piece Fairytale for the 2007 edition of Documenta in Kassel, Germany. More recently they formed the basis of Ai’s installation Bang at the 2013 Venice Biennale, which featured 886 stools piled chaotically on top of one another and suspended in mid-air. The following year, Ai assembled an unprecedented 6000 stools in the atrium of Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, recalling the artist’s famed installation of Sunflower Seeds at that Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. In Grapes, Ai’s meticulous joinery inscribes him within the tradition of craftsmanship that underpins the original stools, which were originally built without the use of screws or bolts. By engaging with time-honoured techniques, Ai both celebrates and undermines the sanctity of the past. As the artist explains, ‘it’s an exploration and display of tradition, which adheres to high aesthetic and moral values in a classic sense but at the same time subverts the meaning through manipulating that same language’ (Ai Weiwei, 2015). It is this very duality – between gravitas and irreverence – that lies at the heart of Ai’s practice.
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