This wouldn’t a proper blog on Chinese furniture and culture without a least a mention of the Chinese contemporary artist Ai Wei Wei, who reinterprets traditional and classical furniture designs in unexpected ways.
In one instance, “officials hat chairs” are carved from solid blocks of white marble (and with no joinery I might add). In another, a terra-cotta Han dynasty vase is emblazoned with the logo of Coca Cola.
An excellent quote by Geoff Manaugh sums up Ai Wei Wei’s work just nicely!
“For “Grapes”, 2008, Ai partially merged ten stools; they force their way into the others structure, like mutant siblings slowly fusing in the womb. Here, several centuries’ worth of artisan furniture production have been hybridized to form something altogether new. In Ai’s Table with Two Legs on the Wall, 1997, a single table has been folded in half to rear up like a horse and rest its legs against the wall. It is cousins with the centaur: a mythic being trapped between two forms, two competing versions of itself. Another table – “Table with Three Legs”, 2008 – has been turned into a spidery mechanism, a low-tech machine of wood, its legs akimbo and stance slightly askew. Carefully poised, it seems so unsure of itself – yet strangely at ease with its unusual new form. Can furniture get drunk?, one might ask. “Table with Three Legs” offers an answer in its very geometry.”
Personally I like the marble chair. It feels light, as if you could easily pick it up and move it across the room like a normal chair. Although I would imagine this would not match with the reality of such a heavy item.
Recent work of one of China’s most important and outspoken contemporary artists is featured in this book. One of China’s most controversial artists, Ai Weiwei is also one of the world’s most prominent critics of the Chinese government. A critic of China’s handling of such matters as the 2008 Olympic Games, and the tragedy of the 2008 earthquake, Ai Weiwei brings questions about tradition, history, modernity, and change to his works of sculpture, architecture, photography and his blog texts.
Available here on Amazon
For more on Ai Wei Wei see: