If you've been following the news lately or are working in a creative industry, you cannot NOT know who Ai Weiwei is! He's a total headline grabber - some days I'd walk into the office and my colleagues come up to me even before they say good morning and report to me that Ai Weiwei's in the news. Again.
Weiwei was recently named Artview's most powerful person in the art world and is also in TIME magazine's Top 100 people of 2011, which is why I was really surprised when friends back in Australia only gave a 'huh?' response when I rambled on about his recent issues with the Communist Party of China. And when I accused them for living under a rock, the response was, "Hah...you're becoming too Chinese...who knows what's going on there?!" SIGH! That seems to be what everyone's been telling me when I go on about stuff going on around here!
Now, if you're clueless about who he is, I'll be nice and tell you a bit about him. :)
Weiwei is an artist, photographer and curator, best known for designing the Beijing Olympics Bird's Nest Stadium, a collaboration with Swiss starchitects Herzog and DeMeuron.
One of his most controversial works, "Dropping the Urn", shows photos of Weiwei nonchalantly dropping a priceless Han Dynasty urn. I'm not sure how you'd intepret it, but when asked, Weiwei said he did this on a whim, 'to show how gravity works'. Whoa. An apple would've been cheaper. I can't help but wonder how he was like as a kid. His poor mother!
Another famous piece by Weiwei was his installation in the Tate Museum in London in 2010, 'Sunflower Seeds'.
At first glance it doesn't look like much - but take a closer look and you might notice that these are not actual seeds; they are hand-painted replicas made of porcelain. Weiwei gathered 1,600 people to to individually hand-make one hundred million seeds, to speak about the mass-production, 'Made in China' phenomenon taking place today.
I was inspired last weekend to do a portrait of Weiwei. Initially the idea was to just do a small A4 sized portrait of him but then I thought I'd bring my materials out to the little lanes of my longtang, and do a portrait of him in public...what an attention-seeker, huh? But Ai Weiwei does that too! Oh, guess what medium I used? No, not paint - that's so BOH-RING...! I collected 100,000/7kgs of sunflower seeds, and this is what I did:
My curious neighbours came over to check out what I was up to!
...and more curious people gathered around! Eventually, someone said, 'Hey! That's that Beijing artist...Ai Weiwei!' WHEW! At least someone could tell!