Lot 1075
  • 1075

Ai Weiwei

4,700,000 - 6,200,000 HKD
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  • Ai Weiwei
  • Forever Bicycles
  • forty two bicycles
  • 275 (H) by 450 cm.; 108¼ (H) by 177⅛ in.
  • edition 2 of 5
executed in 2003


Acquired directly from the artist
Friedman Benda Gallery, New York
Private European Collection


This work:
Japan, Tokyo, Mori Art Museum, Ai Weiwei: According to What?, 25 July to 8 November, 2009

Other editions:
Belgium, Gent, Caermersklooster Provincial Centre of Art and Culture, Ai Weiwei, April - June, 2004
USA, New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Ai Weiwei, September 2004 - October 2004 
USA, Miami, Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Fortunate Objects: Selections from the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection, 5 December, 2007 – 17 February, 2008
Australia, Sydney, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Ai Weiwei, Exhibition in Conjunction with Australia, Sydney, Ai Weiwei: Under Construction, 1 May – 26 July, 2008
USA, Miami, Bass Museum of Art, Human Rites, 25 June – 3 October, 2010
Taiwan, Taipei, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Ai Weiwei Absent, 29 October, 2011 – 29 January, 2012
Denmark, Copenhagen, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Ai Weiwei, November 2011 - February 2012
Netherlands, Tilburg, De Pont Museum, Ai Weiwei, March - June 2012
USA, Washington, DC, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; USA, Indianapolis, Indianapolis Museum of Art; Canada, Toronto, Art Gallery of Toronto; Ai Weiwei: According to What?, 7 October, 2012 – 24 February, 2013; 5 April – 21 July, 2013; 17 August – 27 October, 2013, pp. 91-93
Israel, Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, In Conversation, April 2014 - September 2015


Other editions:
Ai Weiwei, Works: Beijing 1993 - 2003
, Timezone 8 Ltd., Beijing, China, 2003, pp. 140-143
Cecilia Fajardo-Hill ed., Fortunate Objects, Charta/CIFO, Milan, Italy, 2008
Ed. Charles Merewether, Ai Weiwei: Under Construction, Australia: University of New South Wales Press in association with Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation and Campbelltown Arts Center, 2008, pp. 112 and 115
Second Lives - Remixing the Ordinary, Museum of Arts and Design, USA, New York, 2008, p. 47
Richard Vine, New China New Art, Prestel Verlag, Munich, Germany, 2008, p. 114
Karen Smith, Ai Weiwei, Mary Boone Gallery, New York, USA, 2008, p. 22
Karen Smith, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Bernard Fibicher ed., Ai Weiwei, Phaidon, London, New York, 2009, pp. 96-97
Mami Kataoka, Charles Merewether, Matsubara Hironori ed., Ai Weiwei: According to What?, Mori Art Museum and Tankosha Publishing Co., Ltd, Mori, Japan, 2009, pp. 58-59
Mami Kataoka, Charles Merewether, Kerry Brougher, Ai Weiwei: According to What?, Prestel Publishing, New York, USA, 2012, p. 91


This work is generally in good condition. There are minor scuffs and scratches throughout this work, found on the metal frames, seat posts, handle-bars and suspension forks, due to set up methods. The handle-bars of the work also exhibit minor scuffs, with some of the metal cables slightly bent. Some plastic casings of the peddle area exhibit cracks.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist

Deconstruction, Reconstruction
Ai Weiwei

In 2012, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington presented the first ever North American retrospective of the illustrious Ai Weiwei, elevating the artist’s renown to even greater heights. In a conjunctive effort with Japan’s Mori museum, “According to What?” was an updated and revised exhibition based on its Japanese predecessor, and exhibited a wide range of Ai’s sculptural, photographic, video/audio, and installation pieces. The present work, Forever Bicycles (Lot 1075), constructed in 2003, was featured in this monumental show nearly ten years after its original production. Prior to this, Forever Bicycles made regular appearances in exhibitions at notable institutions, including the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Miami’s Bass Museum of Arts, and Belgium’s Caermersklooster Provincial Centre of Art and Culture. Forever Bicycles is the earliest prototype for many subsequent large-scale installations based on the same thematic concern of bicycles. The present piece is an apt distillation of the artist’s art form: a unique blend of innovative craftsmanship and provocative contemplation, indicative of Ai’s outlook in both life and in art—one that challenges and regenerates its surroundings with more than mere acquiescence.

Forever Bicycles is a sculpture created with 42 dismantled Forever brand bicycles, which have been reconstructed to create a tall, interconnected circular shape. A household name in China, the Forever Company began bicycle production in Shanghai in 1940, and grew to become the leading Chinese bicycle manufacturer. As a leading brand, Forever bicycles were a regular feature on the teeming streets in large and small cities alike. With the advancement of technology following modernisation, however, the Forever bicycles began to disappear with time, replaced by larger, more efficient automobiles. The irony of the “Forever” bicycles can thus be fully felt by its audience.

Forever Bicycles intensely captures Ai’s mode of creation. By using simplistic materials and reconstructing them into new forms, the artist allows his audience to contemplate the connections between form and content; to focus on the context behind each material, its title, its regeneration, and the repercussions of the redeveloped object. This is not unlike Marcel Duchamp’s own pioneering concepts of the “Readymade”, which sought to challenge the very definition of “art” itself. Rather, Duchamp’s “Readymades”—a name acquired from American mass-produced, manufactured items in the 1900s—ascribed meaning to unassuming, utilitarian items, giving them renewed significance. One of the first of such “Readymades” was Duchamp’s Roue de Bicyclette (Bicycle Wheel), originally created in 1913 and recreated in 1951. Roue de Bicyclette consisted of a bicycle fork and an upside-down wheel mounted onto a wooden stool. The piece challenged the original function of a bicycle as a mere mode of transport, thrusting it into the realms of art.

Ai Weiwei’s own encounter with the likes of Duchamp was precipitated by his move to the United States in 1981, a time which likewise acquainted the young artist with names such as Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. In these artists Ai found “a certain emotional detachment or indifference”, an emotion that he translated into his own works. One can find this “indifference” resonated in Forever Bicycle—not that the artist is apathetic towards his subject matter; contrarily, this “indifference” is the starting point of the piece. The bicycles have been stripped of their original function, leaving behind a blank slate onto which meaning can be engraved. 

The present Forever Bicycle is an important prototype for the concept of the installation. Though the present piece is constructed with 42 bicycles, Ai experimented with various numbers and shapes, ranging from 4 bikes in a square formation in 2006, to more than 3,000 arranged in a dense configuration in recent years as he elaborated on his original design. The Forever Bicycle range also extended in terms of its exhibition locales, with two most recent shows being in an outdoor space in Toronto featuring 3,144 bikes in 2013, as well as a 1,179 bike installation at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Although the Forever Bicycle works would get larger in size, its creative source rests in the 2003 work that is the present lot, at a time when the concept to come head-to-head with an increasingly commercialised world was at its rawest for the artist.

Since the beginning of his creative entrance into the art world, Ai Weiwei has sought to go against the currents of popular opinion, and has consistently broken various paradigms through his art. Unrelentingly inquisitive of the world around him, Ai never simply settles, but rather, creates powerful, introspective works that are at once simple in appearance but complex in context. Forever Bicycles is no different, and explores the perhaps adverse effects of a fast-paced, commercial world. Through this work, one can truly grasp Ai’s position as both artist and powerful critic.