Ai Weiwei’s new London exhibit features never-before-seen works

LONDON (DPA) : The Design Museum in London will soon host a new exhibition showcasing works by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei that have never been publicly displayed before.

Launching on April 7, “Ai Weiwei: Making Sense” will be the artist’s biggest U.K. show in eight years and his first installation using design and history as a lens through which to consider what we value.

Hundreds of thousands of objects, which have been collected by Weiwei since the 1990s as part of his ongoing fascination with artifacts and traditional craftsmanship, will be at the heart of the exhibition in a series of five expansive “fields.”

The fields include still life, which will feature 1,600 tools from the Stone Age highlighting the origins of design rooted in survival, and Left Right Studio Material, which consists of thousands of fragments from Weiwei’s porcelain sculptures that were destroyed when his studio was demolished by the Chinese state in 2018.

Another field, Spouts, will feature 200,000 porcelain spouts crafted by hand during the Song Dynasty.

Two untitled fields feature an estimated 100,000 cannon balls from the “Song Dynasty” and Lego bricks, which Weiwei began working with in 2014 to produce portraits of political prisoners.

Lego briefly stopped working with the artist as a result but a response from social media led to donations from the public and it is these donated bricks that will be presented for the first time as a fully formed artwork at the exhibition.

It will also feature dozens of objects and artworks from throughout his career exploring tensions, including his Han Dynasty urn emblazoned with a Coca-Cola logo, which epitomizes these clashes.

Other highlights include a number of Weiwei’s objects transforming something useful into something useless, including a worker’s hard hat cast in glass and a sculpture of an iPhone cut out of a jade axe head.

There are also works that refer to the COVID-19 pandemic, with three toilet paper sculptures on display shown in the context of China’s rapidly changing urban landscape, which Weiwei has documented through photography and film works.

Outside the exhibition gallery, large-scale works have been installed including a piece titled “Coloured House” featuring the timber frame of a house that once belonged to a prosperous family in Zhejiang province in eastern China during the early Qing Dynasty.

Weiwei has painted the frame with industrial colors and installed it on crystal bases, and it is the first time it has been seen in the U.K.

The artist is best known for working on the design of Beijing’s Olympic stadium and filling the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with hand-crafted porcelain sunflower seeds in 2010.

The “Ai Weiwei: Making Sense” exhibition will run until July 30 at the Design Museum in London.