a tale of a few cities

He Xiangyu, Der Tod des Marat

Posted in All is not as it seems., Art, artists, China, Exhibitions, Homage, paris, portraits, RIP, Sculpture, surrealism by petercombe on November 3, 2011

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In an edition of three, “Der Tod des Marat” (“The Death of Marat”) consists of a life-size version of ’s body laying face down on the floor, dressed in a suit. He Xiangyu, an artist represented by Beijing’s White Space Gallery and Galerie LOFT in Paris, reportedly hand-knotted actual human hair onto the plastic and fiberglass effigy to create a representation of the artist plausible enough to shock and offend unsuspecting locals. The sculpture was on view at the Künstlerhaus’s Laden No. 5 exhibition space until November 1. According to Xiangyu, the sculpture was the exhibit was intended to praise Ai’s defiant actions despite the Chinese government’s constant threats of imprisonment. Ai, who helped lead the design at the Bird’s Nest Stadium, remains one of Beijing’s most vocal and outspoken critics.

Passersby are mistaking it for a human corpse, and, not surprisingly, have already alerted local authorities. “Several people had already called within days of the exhibition going up,” said Peter Steger, a spokesman for the police in Bad Ems. A local resident also filed charges for disturbing the peace of the dead, thinking the corpse was real.

Künstlerhaus Schloß Balmoral >

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Ai Weiwei and the Five Finger Discount

Posted in appropriation, Art, auction, China, Conceptual Art, illustration, London, Painting, Sculpture by petercombe on July 19, 2011

Detail of Ai Wei Wei sunflower seeds from the Tate Modern in London

For the eleventh commission in the Tate Modern‘s Unilever Series, Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei had filled the museum’s Turbine Hall with millions of life-sized sunflower seed husks made out of porcelain. The collective effort of a number of specialists from Jingdezhen, China, the hand-crafted seeds were individually formed and painted. Before the museum was alerted to the installation’s dangers of lead paint and silica dust, visitors were encouraged to touch and walk on the carpet of tiny replicates. Before a barrier was erected around the perimeter of the installation, I wondered how many visitors were tempted to pilfer samples of the tiny seeds (see photo above). In February of this year Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening sale in London surpassed the $192,000 estimate, netting $559,394 for a 100-kilogram pile of Weiwei’s seeds. That puts worth of the stolen seeds pictured above at about $33.60.

Anish Kapoor Blows Off UK Now

Posted in Art, artists, boycott, China, London, Photography, politics, protests by petercombe on June 16, 2011

(Photo: Johnny Shand-Kydd)


LONDON. Anish Kapoor has cancelled plans to present his sculptures at the National Museum of China in Beijing, in protest against the continuing detention of Ai Weiwei. He had been asked by the British Council to consider a show at the newly renovated museum in Tiananmen Square as part the “UK Now” festival in China late next year.

Kapoor’s spokeswoman confirmed to The Art Newspaper that he had been invited to China, but “he is not going to proceed in view of the detention of Ai Weiwei.” Ai, an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, was arrested in Beijing in early April for alleged “economic crimes”.

Discussions began about a potential exhibition at the National Museum of China last October, when two directors of London’s Lisson Gallery (which represents Kapoor, stand 2.1/K12 at Art Basel) were in Beijing. Provisional plans were subsequently made for Kapoor to travel to Beijing this month to view the space and talk with the museum. The idea would have been to mount an exhibition with a major new work.

Kapoor has been outspoken in his criticism of the Chinese government’s treatment of Ai Weiwei, since his detention on 3 April. On 10 May, when he opened his Leviathan installation at the Grand Palais in Paris, he dedicated it to the Chinese artist, describing his detention as “barbaric”. Once Kapoor had spoken out, it was realised that his participation in the “UK Now” festival would be difficult. A British Council spokeswoman stressed that the exhibition proposal had been at “a very early stage, and until he had seen the space we could not have proceeded”.

British Council chief executive Martin Davidson believes in “freedom of cultural expression”, but is keen for the programme to go ahead. He commented: “It is through cultural exchange that we best demonstrate the benefits of free artistic expression and build supportive links between people in the UK and China.”

The Art Newspaper >

Ai Weiwei’s Guerilla Proclamation at the 54th Venice Biennale

Posted in Conceptual Art, guerilla art, Installation, performance art, Photography, text by petercombe on June 4, 2011

Marc-Antoine Léval‘s latest guerilla stunt outside the entrance to the 54th Venice Biennale. I’ve always liked the humour and brazen nature of (aka “The Immaterial Art Emperor”Léval’s work. This particular performance prompted voices of disapproval from a morally and politically correct crowd, “Ai Weiwei did not authorize this!”  Just the sort of participation the work demands.

Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds

Posted in Art, China, Installation, Painting, Sculpture, video by petercombe on April 8, 2011


‘Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds’ video is beautiful and moving. It sheds light on the thought process behind the project, part of The Unilever Series at Tate Modern, UK. The porcelain seeds were made in a town called Jingdezhen. All 100 million porcelain seed husks were produced by craftspeople, many of whom had previous to Weiwei’s employment, gone bankrupt.

I saw the installation during a recent trip to London, but was saddened that previous to my visit, viewers were no longer able to walk amongst the display due to hazardous toxins. The tons of porcelain seeds were kicking up a fine ceramic dust, easily breathed into the lungs of art aficionados. Visitors can now only gaze at Ai’s piece from a cordoned off observation deck.

Ai has not been heard from since he was seized on April 3 at Beijing airport about to board a flight to Hong Kong. The U.S. and EU have protested his detention.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s call for the Release of Ai WeiWei >

Tate Modern’s message via @robbiesharp >

China’s detention of artist Ai Weiwei

Posted in China, Reportage by petercombe on April 6, 2011

Fears for the safety of Ai Weiwei, one of China’s best-known artists are growing amid international condemnation of his extra-legal disappearance at the hands of the country’s increasingly repressive state security apparatus. He was detained at a Beijing airport on Sunday and led away by airport security personnel.

In January Chinese demolition workers tore down the Shanghai studio of the artist – a move that was linked to his political activism. Demolition crews arrived without warning on January 11, 2011 and flattened the building within a day.  He originally had permission to build the studio, but later officials ordered it to be destroyed, saying he had failed to follow planning procedures.

The Chinese government in the midst of the worst crackdown on free speech in at least a decade. Afraid that any mention of the “Jasmine Revolutions” sweeping the Middle East right now might lead to similar protests in China, Chinese authorities are cracking down hard. In the past month, dozens of Chinese bloggersand dissidents have been detained “disappeared”, and in less than 24 hours after his arrest, Ai’s name has been virtually erased from the Chinese internet.

Ai served as the Head Artistic Advisor for Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron’s design for the National Stadium for the Beijing Olympic games of 2008.

Ai Weiwei, Fountain of Light, 2007

Petition to Free Ai Weiwei >

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