AI WEIWEI'S GRAPES WILL BE OFFERED IN SOTHEBY'S LONDON CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING SALE
ON 15 OCTOBER. ESTIMATE: £350,000–450,000.
Grapes is made of 32 Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) stools woven together to form a semi-spherical bowl. Ai Weiwei has asserted that these three-legged stools are a fundamental expression of the aesthetic of rural China; they can be found in every countryside home, often passed down through the generations. In repurposing the stool into an entirely new form, he points to the potency and rapidity of the social, economic, political, and artistic changes facing China in the 21st century. Having spent so much time under house arrest in his studio complex in Beijing, Ai’s web presence has been something of a beacon of hope. Just as these humble household objects have abandoned their passive purpose and are knitted together with consummate strength, we can imagine individuals across his Internet-restricted country connecting and uniting online. The organic form of Grapessuggests it has sprouted naturally and might continue to grow into a whole impenetrable sphere.
CHINESE ARTIST AI WEIWEI POSES FOR A PORTRAIT IN BEIJING. © STEPHEN SHAVER/ZUMA PRESS/CORBIS.
In creating this sculpture, the stools, while modified, have not been destroyed. In fact, Ai has not only relied on their inherent shape, but also on the assistance of local artisans using traditional carpentry and joinery techniques. Grapes is not an attack on the mores and traditions of China, rather it is a comment on the immutable winds of change blowing through the country of his birth.
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