Weiwei Ai (b. 1957)
Marble Door
82½ x 31¼ x 2½ in. (209.5 x 79.3 x 6.3 cm.)
Executed in 2007. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.
Galerie Urs Meile, Lucerne

Lot Essay

Ai Weiwei is widely considered to be one of China's most significant and influential avant-garde artists. Using an array of traditional and contemporary methods of production, Ai occupies multiple roles as a conceptual artist active in sculpture, architecture, film, and installation, connecting the past with the present in his deeply sardonic investigation into the political and cultural realities facing China. Working with ancient Chinese antiquities, aesthetic concepts and found objects, Ai appropriates traditional and contemporary approaches to art-making to produce works that confound established notions of the artist and the dichotomies between traditional and contemporary, East and West, the real and the inauthentic.
As China continues on a path of radical development and modernization, the material of its cultural past can quite often literally be found in ruins; doors like these, remnants of Beijing's traditional courtyard ("hutong") architectural style are demolished and discarded. In Marble Door, Ai takes these commonplace doors and memorializes them in marble, a material traditionally used in sculpture and a cultural symbol of refined taste. By taking the remnants of urban development and glorifying them into marble, Ai elicits the Chinese scholar tradition of displaying small plates of marble as table-top screens. As such, the door harkens back to China's long history of aesthetic refinement, while also highlighting the ways in which that history has been cast aside in the contemporary era. Marble Door distills into sculptural form the artist's fascination with the layering of the past in the present and his fundamentally iconoclastic approach to any preconceived notions of value, culture, and aesthetics.

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