Ai Weiwei, "Colored Vases", 2007‒10, Han Dynasty vases and industrial paint, The Royal Academy in London.
Ai Weiwei, born 1957, is one of China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artists. He explores universal topics of culture, history, politics, and tradition, showcasing a remarkable interdisciplinary career as a photographer, sculptor, architect, and activist. His works spotlight issues of freedom of expression, as well as individual and human rights both in China and globally. Many use minimal forms and methods, while others manipulate traditional furniture, ancient pottery, and daily objects in ways that question cultural values and challenge political authority. Through the medium of ceramics, Ai Weiwei poses questions concerning the meaning of the art work’s authenticity, the autonomy of creativity, and the artistic authority. In "Colored Vases", the artist has assembled ceramic vessels, ostensibly dating to China’s Han Dynasty. He has coated them with cheap industrial paint in garish shades of baby blue, pink, apple green, and tomato red, thus eradicating the cultural and archaeological “value” of the pots. The Han Dynasty pots may be regarded as rare and valuable artifacts from the past, in their own day they were most likely simple, functional pots and vessels used on a daily basis and probably produced in numbers that, for the time and technology, echo the massproduction of manufactured goods. By painting them Ai Weiwei has made them into a work of contemporary art. The question he poses is clear. What is more valuable to a culture? The original mass produced archaeological pot or the pot that has become a piece of contemporary art?
Picture taken at the exhibition: Ai Weiwei at The Royal Academy in London.
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