Trend in sight

Ai Weiwei and his media alter ego

Art Market | Since his arrival in Germany in July 2015, artist Ai Weiwei has multiplied his exhibitions and pubIic interventions around the world. For each of his recent projects, the artist has made use of his media alter ego.

Ai Weiwei © Dan Balilty / The Associated Press
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Ai Weiwei
© Dan Balilty / The Associated Press

An increasing number of exhibitions

The artist has introduced himself in Europe and North America, not only as a “dissident artist”, but as a human rights defender. Since he started becoming involved with the refugee crisis, many of his projects have engaged with the migratory phenomenons, including the production of the documentary Human Flow, in competition at the Venice Film Festival. Other events have followed this line : the retrospective Ai Weiwei Libero at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in collaboration with the Galleria Continua, Law of the Journey at the National Gallery in Prague and #SafePassage at Amsterdam’s FOAM. In November 2016, the Chinese artist realized three simultaneous exhibitions in New York, each of them exploring refugee issues : Roots and Branches at the Mary Boone Gallery and the Lisson Gallery, and Laundromat at Deitch Projects.

We can add to this list the artist’s intervention Er Xi, Air de jeux at the Bon Marché at the start of 2016, his first exhibition in Turkey presented at the Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum named Ai Weiwei On Porcelain and finally Ai Weiwei - Maybe, Maybe Not shown at the Nathan Cummings Building for Modern and Contemporary Art in Israel. In Washington, the artist presented the installation Trace at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden while the exhibition Ai Weiwei. D’ailleurs c’est toujours les autres was held on the same dates at the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts in Lausanne.

These prolific years seem to be the logical consequence of the artist’s newfound freedom of movement. However, they are also the result of a combination of factors unrelated to the artistic world. Ai Weiwei was prohibited from leaving the Chinese territory between 2011 and 2015, the ban has had a lasting impact on the public, which has also been motivated by the artist’s expert communication abilities.

A reflection of the market

Since 2015, Ai Weiwei’s secondary market has been characterized by a similar number of artworks presented at auction : 50 lots in 2014, 45 in 2015, 48 in 2016 and around 30 during the first nine months of the year 2017. Year after year, the results have been homogeneous, the majority of works have been sold at prices corresponding to the estimates, around 30% have been unsold lots and there have been important sales of historical or emblematic works such as :
- Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads (ed 5/8) , 2010, sold by Phillips New York in May 2017 for $ 3,370,000;
- Map of China, 2009, sold at Christie’s New York in May 2016 for $ 2,517,000;
- Dropping A Han Dynasty Urn (ed 3/8), 1995-2004, sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2016 for $ 1,092,777.
According to Artnet’s archives on auction sales, on a list of approximately 300 lots around a third corresponds to prints and multiples.

Ai Weiwei, Arch, 2017 - Public Art Fund New York © Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio/ Frahm & Frahm Photo Jason Wyche
Ai Weiwei, Arch, 2017 - Public Art Fund New York
© Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio/ Frahm & Frahm Photo Jason Wyche
The artist’s communication strategy on social media combined with his meticulous control over his image have created an empire, based on his name and actions, that goes beyond the art world. For his exhibit Ai Weiwei - Good Fences Make Good Neighbors organized by New York’s Public Art Fund, the artist collaborated with Ebay by realizing a sale whose total profits were intended to finance the project. The two items that were on sale (there were 1000 copies of each) : Odyssey ($ 100) and Artist’s Hand (675$) - were sold out in less than three days.

Vincent Kozsilovics
Publié le 22/10/2017
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Version française

Ai Weiwei © Dan Balilty / The Associated Press Reframe, 2016 - Ai Weiwei. Libero à la Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi © Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio Vue d’installation, Law of the Journey, National Gallery de Prague © Courtesy the artist and National Gallery Prague #SafePassage, 2016, FOAM © Ai Weiwei Studio Vue d’installation, Ai Weiwei 2016 - Roots and Branches © Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery Vue d’installation, Ai Weiwei, Roots and Branches © Courtesy Lisson Gallery New York Vue d’installation, Ai Weiwei, Laundromat © Deitch Projects, Soho. 2016. Courtesy Le Bon Marché, Er Xi, Air de jeux © Say Who Vue d’installation, Ai Weiwei - Maybe, Maybe Not © Photo - AFP/Thomas Codex Vue d’installation, Ai Weiwei, Trace, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017 © Photo - Cathy Carver. Courtesy the artist and Hirshhorn Museum Vue d’installation, Ai Weiwei, Ai Weiwei. D’ailleurs c’est toujours les autres au mcb-a Lausanne, 2017 © Courtesy the artist and Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne. Photo: Etienne Malapert © Studio Ai Weiwei Ai Weiwei, Arch, 2017 - Public Art Fund New York © Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio/ Frahm & Frahm Photo Jason Wyche Ai Weiwei, Banner 112, 2017 - Public Art Fund New York © Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Jason Wyche

Ai Weiwei
© Dan Balilty / The Associated Press

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