Beijing-based artist Ai WeiWei has just released his collection of limited edition scarves and tote bags and they are now available for sale exclusively on The Artling for a limited time! As well as being one of the world’s leading artists, Ai WeiWei has become prominent for his social activism and criticism of the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights. His recent works brought social issues in China at the forefront of the international stage. This collection takes their motifs from papercuts created by Ai Weiwei as part of his Papercut Portfolio. Papercutting is a traditional Chinese art going back 2,000 years and the coloured, intricately cut papers are used as a story-telling medium in festivities, for prayers, and as everyday decoration.
Scroll down to take a look at Ai WeiWei's limited edition collection, which are available online exclusively on The Artling:
Coupling impeccable crafting and beautiful storytelling, Ai WeiWei’s scarves are wearable works of art that look as well luxuriously draped over your outfit as hanging in a frame. Ai’s design for this red scarf is based on his papercut Cats and Dogs.
Using the traditional Chinese art of the papercut, 'Cats and Dogs' reflects on a decisive period in the artist’s life and work: from his return to Beijing in 1993 after a decade-long stay in New York to building his renowned Caochangdi home and studio on the Beijing outskirts in 1999. At the centre of the papercut, he gives the finger to the Forbidden City, effectively obscuring the portrait of Mao Zedong that presides over Tiananmen Square.
Ai developed two iconoclastic groups of works with Neolithic vases or antique Ming (1368–1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) furniture. Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo (1994) - of which two versions can be seen in the papercut - brands a historical artifact with the trademark of contemporary capitalism. He also joined Ming and Qing Dynasty tables into sculptural permutations such as Table with Two Legs on the Wall (upper right), Table with Crossed Corners (1998), Table with Three Legs (1998), and Tables at Right Angles (1998).
'Citizens' Investigation: The Silk Scarf' reflects on a momentous event for Ai's life and work: on May 12, 2008, a massive earthquake of magnitude 7.9 struck China’s Sichuan Province. The papercut shows people amid the rubble: a woman holding up a picture of her missing child, helpers and investigators trying to find victims and survivors. The death toll reached almost 70,000 and appeared particularly high among schoolchildren, but the Chinese government barely provided any information about the victims’ identities.
Ai organized a team of volunteers to investigate and compile a list of the deceased children, a project known as the “Citizens’ Investigation”. They compiled a sombre list of 5335 child victims with their name, age, gender, school, hometown, and family details. It was discovered that corruption had caused many of the schools to be constructed far below official safety standards, causing a disproportionate number of deaths when the earthquake struck. The Chinese phrases read “Citizens’ Investigation of the Great Earthquake of May 12” (left) and “Cherish Life and Reject Forgetting" (right).
'Haircut: The Silk Scarf' reflects on an important event in the artist’s life and work: his participation in documenta XII in Kassel, Germany, in 2007, when he brought 1001 Chinese citizens to the city for his work Fairytale.
They had responded to an open call Ai had posted on his blog, which was answered by more than 3000 applicants. He selected people belonging to every section of Chinese society including farmers, homemakers, police officers, street vendors, students, teachers, artists, and the unemployed. It was an extraordinary opportunity for many people who could otherwise never have travelled abroad—several had to apply for their first passport as a necessary condition for this “fairytale.” Ai designed clothes, suitcases, and other items especially for the participants, and - as displayed in the papercut’s borders - also cut their hair in idiosyncratic fashion. The 1001 Chinese citizens were free to move around and do as they wished, except to leave the city; they were functioning both as spectators and part of an artwork.
'Zodiac: The China Bag' offers a new perspective on one of his seminal works: the sculpture series Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (2011). Here, the artist took up one of the most notorious incidents in Chinese history, a complex and ongoing story about the spoils of war, nationalism, and repatriation.
The original bronze-plated sculptures of the twelve Chinese zodiacs were part of a majestic waterclock fountain designed by the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione for the court of the Emperor Qianlong. Ai rendered seven animal heads in their exact form in bronze and gold for his own sculpture. The remaining five animals were lost and their likeliness unknown, he designed these himself, raising new questions about authenticity and cultural borrowing.
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