Ai Weiwei: exploring tension in ideology

Ai Weiwei has become internationally recognised for much more than his art. The Chinese artist’s persecution by Beijing has raised awareness – and concern – amongst the international art world over the darker side of the regime. It has in turn made Ai one of the most significant cultural figures of his generation, in China and internationally.

Following on from his Unilever series commission Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern, this latest exhibition at London’s Lisson Gallery is a show of his sculptural and video art – a chance to view a number of key works that demonstrate the range and sensibility of the artist.

Ai explores the tension in ideology, what he has described as ‘being between a more interesting state of mind and a more dreadful state of mind. The artist should be for the interesting against the dreadful,’ he says.

Using a variety of formal languages with both traditional and innovative methods of production, Ai links the past with the present and explores the geopolitical, economic and cultural realities affecting the world with humour and compassion.

Amongst the work on display at Lisson are Coloured Vases. Created in 2009 and 2010, the two installations represent groupings of 7 and 31 Hans Dynasty (from 200DV-220AD) pots covered in industrial paint. Ai’s continued desecration of these vases could represent his anger at the organised destruction of cultural and historical values that took place during the Cultural Revolution when everything old was replaced by new.

Lisson’s Greg Hilty notes: ‘These beautifully crafted, conceptually acute, poetically resonant, these works provide a concise overview of his concerns as an artist of Ai Weiwei.’

His work can be seen as a succession of gestures critiquing both commodity fetishism and the society in which he lives.

Among numerous international projects planned for next year are exhibitions of Ai’s photographic works at the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland, and his architectural projects at Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria.

The exhibition at Lisson Gallery is on from 13 May to 16 July 2011.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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PAD London: Objects of desire

London turned into a giant art fair in October as representatives from galleries from around the world descended on the capital city to take part in the now highly established Frieze Art Fair and Pavilion of Art & Design London – both offering art for sale and attracting international buyers and collectors as well as art and design enthusiasts.

Joris Laarman Branch Bookshelf in bronze, 2010

The two affairs that run simultaneously from 13 – 17 October, though, couldn’t be more contrasting. Frieze is a racy affair that has at its core a giant pavilion constructed in the middle of Regents Park offering a vast selection of contemporary works of art by an international set of galleries. It is large, loud – almost chaotic – and feels current, attracting not just those who can afford to buy but also people from all walks of life.

Fernando & Humberto Campana, Sushi IV Chair, 2003 ©Perimeter Editions, Paris

PAD London is an altogether more serene experience. In its third year, the art and design fair has grown to include 50 of the world’s most elite galleries. Plus its location – a tent constructed amongst the sculptural trees of Berkley Square in the heart of exclusive Mayfair – limits its size and to a degree its customers.

Taking 1860 as its starting point, paintings by Pablo Picasso,  Egon Schiele, some brilliant work by German expressionist George Groz, were on exhibit alongside those by Bridget Riley, Richard Prince and more avant-garde artists including the controversial Austrian painter Gottfried Helnwein with his rather haunting work that is a visual critic of war, and outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei who’s 2004 China Bench (pictured bellow). Both were exhibited on New York gallery Friedman Benda‘s visually rich stand.

Ai Weiwei, China Bench, 2004 ©Freidman Benda, New York

This gathering sat alongside mid 20th century European classic of Gio Ponti and co to Dutch designer Joris Laarman and his exquisite Branch Bookshelf that managed to be both organic and highly technical (pictured above and also on exhibit by Friedman Benda), and New York designer Karim Rashid’s bright Blobulous Chair (pictured bellow). Jewelery design ranged from vintage Cartier to sculptural pieces by artist Anish Kapoor. There was even a selection of unusual tribal art on show.

Karim Rashid, Blobulous Chair Chromo, 2008-2010 ©Edizioni Galleria Colombari, Milan

There was also an exhibit by graduate designers from London’s prestigious Royal College of Art. Curator Janice Blackburn and the college’s director of architecture Nigel Coats selected 20 pieces from the 2010 graduate show with 15 percent of the profits generated from the sale going towards the RCA Student Fine Art Award Fund.

Royal College of Art's 2010 graduate show at Pavilion of Art & Design London

PAD London is a chic and exclusive affair – the 50 galleries taking part are from the elite of the art and design world. It was conceived by two Frenchmen Patrick Perrin and Stéphane Custot who spotted a gap in the market and filled it with the kind of work – and the mix – that no one else caters for.

This may be a purely commercial affair, but much like Frieze it is a chance to see a varied selection of creative work gathered, rather conveniently, under one roof.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

All rights and labelled images are covered by ©