A Cultural Revolution

A portfolio of significant works from China's contemporary-art boom
Photo
MAP OF CHINA , 2004,
Tieli wood from destroyed Qing Dynasty temples, 20 x 79 x 63 in
Ai Weiwei (born 1957) is one of China’s most influential cultural figures. He first made his name in the late 1970s with his participation in the dissident “Stars” artists group. After more than a decade in New York, he returned to China in the early 1990s and devoted himself to curatorial projects and publications that nurtured the country’s nascent conceptual-art scene. Today he spends most of his time on architecture and urban development, and he is a consultant for Herzog & de Meuron’s Beijing Olympic Stadium. Ever intent on answering the question “What is Art?,” Ai ranges artistically from exquisitely reworked—or destroyed—antiquities to such vast projects as Fairytale (2007), for which he is transporting 1,001 Chinese citizens to Kassel, Germany, to explore themes of identity and place. Map of China is one of a series of sculptures he has made from Qing Dynasty wood rescued from demolished temples.
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Britta Erickson is an independent scholar and curator who focuses on contemporary Chinese art. She has taught at Stanford University and has curated major exhibitions at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, in Washington, D.C., and at Stanford's Cantor Arts Center.

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