If you regularly follow art news, than you already know almost everything about Ai Weiwei. But, do you really? Maybe you know about his activism and political controversies, but do you know that this great Chinese artist creates beautiful sculptures? In this article, we will take a look at 10 most expensive art sculptures created by Ai Weiwei. In the last couple of months, almost all the news about Ai Weiwei were, unfortunately, related to human rights abuses, the problems artist has with Chinese authorities, and so on. For example, we wrote about his dispute with Lego Company, about listening devices that were found in the artist’s studio, about UK denying him visa, and so on. Unfortunately, not much was written (in the last couple of months) about his art. So, let’s focus on Ai Weiwei art for a change.
We could say that Ai Weiwei belongs to the group of “celebrity artists”. He is very popular (maybe thanks to his activism on social media). It’s quite difficult to classify his work, as he uses a variety of different art media. Apart from being sculptor, he is also a performance artist, photographer, conceptual artist, designer… His work is highly influenced by Chinese tradition, political and social issues, relations between past and present, and so on. But, probably the most important feature of his art is his attempt to spread social messages through the beautiful artworks he creates. When it comes to sculpture, he is probably one of the most innovative artists in the world, pushing the boundaries of contemporary sculpture practice. In addition, his works are very popular among art collectors; so let’s see – what are 10 most expensive Ai Weiwei art sculptures? Scroll down and find out.
Bubble of Ten
Sometimes it is difficult to classify Ai Weiwei’ works. Many of them have characteristics of both sculpture and installation. This is the case with the Bubble of Ten, a piece created in the medium of enameled porcelain (in 10 parts). The deep blue porcelain orbs of Bubble sprout in a geometrical grid design from the lawn, each carrying reflections of the opulent palace and gardens in their simple glazed surfaces.
The piece (Edition size 10) was sold for $365,000 at Sotheby’s New York. For more information on the artwork, please click here!
Featured Image: Ai Weiwei – Bubble of Ten (courtesy of mutualart.com)
Zodiac Head - Dragon
This sculpture is a part of probably the most iconic series in Ai Weiwei’s oeuvre. Zodiac Heads/Circle of Animals now forms a significant international project. The series recreates the 12 traditional Chinese zodiac sculptures that adorned the Yuanming Yuan imperial fountain-clock in Beijing and were subsequently looted during the Opium wars. The death of Chairman Mao in 1976, the demise of the Cultural Revolution which sought to destroy such artifacts, and the subsequent reopening of China’s economy all encouraged a renewed veneration of these objects domestically as well as a demand for them abroad. This project simultaneously signals Ai Weiwei’s position as China’s most internationally pervasive artist whilst exploring the themes of globalization and identity that guide his praxis.
This piece (Edition size 8) was sold for $490,000 at Sotheby’s New York in 2015. For more information about the artwork, click here!
Featured Image: Ai Weiwei – Zodiac Head Dragon (courtesy of johnseed.com)
Coca Cola Vase
A conflict between the progression of the modern and the preservation of traditional – what else could be said about the sculpture where we see a Twentieth Century logo festooned upon a two-thousand year old vase; the emblem of American capitalism emblazoned on an ancient Chinese artefact, a unique hand-crafted object adorned with the ornament of mass-production. Deeply conceptualized, this artwork poses many questions: the relationship between consumerism and traditional way of life, between American capitalism and Chinese “one state-two models” system, new and old. This piece was sold for $665,000 in 2014, at Phillips, De Pury & Luxembourg New York.
To find more about the piece, click here!
Featured Image: Ai Weiwei – Coca Cola Vase (courtesy of londonslant.files.wordpress.com)
This amazing sculpture, created with mixed media, was inspired by the ongoing building boom in Beijing. The piece is offering a sly commentary on the aesthetics of new construction. Chandelier is grandiose and flashy, reflecting the competitive drive among Beijing’s builders for ever greater opulence. At over four meters tall, the chandelier would suitably adorn the foyer of a grand office building or hotel. Divorced from such a location, however, and lowered to the level inhabited by the viewer, Chandelier overwhelms its viewers, exemplifying the urge toward competitively conspicuous consumption that is common among China’s nouveaux riches.
The sculpture (edition size is 2) was sold for $657,000 at Sotheby’s New York in 2007. More information you can find here.
Featured Image: Ai Weiwei – Chandelier (courtesy of mutualart.com)
This stunning sculpture (or installation, as someone would also name it) is made of 32 Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) stools woven together to form a semi-spherical bowl. Ai Weiwei has asserted that these three-legged stools are a fundamental expression of the aesthetic of rural China; they can be found in every countryside home, often passed down through the generations. By giving stools a completely unique form, Ai Weiwei points to the potency and rapidity of the social, economic, political, and artistic changes facing China in the 21st century.
This piece was sold for $697,601 at Phillips, De Pury and Luxemburg London, in 2015. Click here to find more information about the artwork.
Featured Image: Ai Weiwiei – Grapes (courtesy of tes.com)
Forever Bicycle is a work created in 2003. It’s a sculpture created with 42 dismantled Forever brand bicycles, which have been reconstructed to create a tall, interconnected circular shape. 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 modernization, 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.
The artwork (Edition size 5) was sold for $730,310 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2015. To find more about this amazing artwork, click here!
Featured Image: Ai Weiwei – Forever Bicycles (courtesy of ashzeyn.files.wordpress.com)
In this series which began in the mid-1990s, Ai Weiwei takes Neolithic and Han dynasty ceramics and coats them in brightly colored industrial paint, often allowing small areas to remain uncovered so that they act as windows to the historic artefact sitting below. In these fascinating works, Chinese historical artefacts are placed in direct conflict with components of enveloping modernism, causing one’s thoughts to move swiftly to the effects of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the difficult relationship China still holds with its past today.
The artwork was sold for $735,296 at Sotheby’s London in 2014. Find out more about the sale by clicking here!
Featured Image: Ai Weiwei – Colored Vases (courtesy of architectural-review.com)
Map of China
The Map of China was made from the tielimu (ironwood) of a demolished Qing Dynasty temple. It was constructed from different pieces of wood using the mortise-and-tenon joinery technique, and became a full map of China, featuring Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hainan Island. It consists of old objects that have their own histories, and has evolved into an art work with the form of a readymade item. The great conflict that Ai Weiwei speaks of stems from the change of form. This type of change is a metaphor for the existence of traditional Chinese culture within a context of rapid economic development.
This amazing artwork was sold for $1,527,715 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. For more information on the sale, please click here!
Featured Image: Ai Weiwei – Map of China (courtesy of zgeography.files.wordpress.com)
Circle of Animals, Zodiac Heads (Gold)
In this amazing piece of art, Ai Weiwei has reinterpreted the twelve gold animal heads representing the traditional Chinese zodiac that once adorned the famed fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan, an imperial retreat in Beijing. Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads is the artist’s first major public sculpture project.
The piece was sold for $4,434,726 at Phillips, De Pury & Luxembourg London. Find out more by clicking here!
Featured Image: Ai Weiwei – Circle of Animals, Zodiac Heads (courtesy of portlandartmuseum.org)
Circle of Animals, Zodiac Heads (Bronze)
Designed in the 18th century by two European Jesuits serving in the court of the Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong, the twelve zodiac animal heads originally functioned as a water clock-fountain, which was cited in the magnificent European-style gardens of the Yuanming Yuan. In 1860, the Yuanming Yuan was ransacked by French and British troops, and the heads were pillaged. In re-interpreting these objects on an oversized scale, Ai Weiwei focuses attention on questions of looting and repatriation, while extending his ongoing exploration of the “fake” and the copy in relation to the original.
The artwork was sold for $5,427,101 at Phillips, De Pury and Luxembourg London. To find out more about this amazing sale, click here!