After the Cultural Revolution


After the Cultural Revolution
Gallery 218 – On View
Ai Weiwei
Chinese, born 1957


Ai Weiwei
Marble Chair, 2008
White marble
Gift of funds from Eric Dayton in honor of Bruce Dayton 2010.24

Ai Weiwei spent part of his childhood in exile when his father, the famous poet Ai Qing, was sent to the Gobi Desert during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. After Chairman Mao died in 1976, Weiwei enrolled at the Beijing Film Academy and subsequently moved to the United States at age twenty-four. In New York he was exposed to the pop and conceptual artists who were yet unknown in China. He returned to his homeland twelve years later to care for his ailing father. It was there that his work began to garner significant attention, and he has today become one of the country’s most eminent artists—and one of its most vocal social critics.

Weiwei started collecting Ming and Q’ing dynasty pieces shortly after his return to China and, in 1997, began disassembling and reconstructing them into hybrid forms and minimalist sculptures. Marble Chair is inspired by antique Chinese furniture and influenced by the systematic destruction of Chinese culture that began during the Cultural Revolution. It is carved from a single block of marble to resemble a traditional yokeback chair, one of which his family was allowed to keep when they were in exile.

In the setting of the MIA’s historic Wu Family Reception Hall, Weiwei’s marble chair takes its place alongside the antique chairs. It is a poignant symbol of the continuities and disruptions of cultural tradition that permeate China today. The solemnity of the object, and its ability to evoke all that has been lost in China’s rush to modernize, make it a powerful memorial to the past.

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