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Detained Chinese artist / activist Ai Weiwei and his work

“Forever”  was made from Forever brand bicycles, the leading manufacturer for the Chinese public, that is, before the mass industrial revolution that took place in the 80s and 90s.

At Somerset House in London, Ai Weiwei has arranged 12 oversized bronze heads of animals, each about 4ft high and weighing about 800lb, and each representing a sign of the Chinese zodiac – rat, tiger, rabbit goat, pig and so on. The heads are inspired by the water-spouting originals that adorned an 18th-century fountain-clock commissioned by the Emperor Qianlong for his summer pavilion outside Beijing. In 1860, French and British troops looted the palace and carried off the heads. The whereabouts of five are still not known , but the Chinese government wants any of the others that are in Western collections returned.
The irony is that the heads aren’t Chinese. They were designed and modelled in a recognisably European style by the Jesuit missionary Giuseppe Castiglione, a favourite at the imperial court who taught Chinese artists how to synthesise European perspective with traditional painting techniques.

“Snake Ceiling” was created from school back-packs – the same brand as those used by children killed in the Sichuan Earthquake. The earthquake occurred in August 2008, killing thousands of schoolchildren.

Tate Modern: “Sunflower Seeds is made up of millions of small works, each apparently identical, but actually unique. However realistic they may seem, these life-sized sunflower seed husks are in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain.
Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.

The man himself: Ai Weiwei See the rest HERE from P. Webb

Ai Weiwei, a 54-year-old artist, architect and social critic, was arrested on April 3 on charges of “economic crimes” and his subsequent detention in an undisclosed location has caused a wave of outrage in the international arts community.

New York’s Guggenheim Museum launched an online petition that has drawn 142,755 signatures so far. Other leading art museums around the world, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, London’s Tate, South Korea’s Gwangju Biennale, and Paris’ National Museum of Modern Art, have promoted the petition through their Web sites, Twitter, and Facebook accounts.

As an artist and architect, the famously outspoken Ai is perhaps best known for having helped design the Olympic National Stadium (otherwise known as the “Bird’s Nest”) for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. His photography and sculptures have been widely praised in art circles for their mix of avant-garde and traditional stylistic elements.

by France24

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