Free Speech Pendant, 2014
Double sided, hand painted porcelain
5.5 x 4.0 x 0.8 cm, edition of 60
Membership discount does not apply for this edition
The Vancouver Art Gallery is pleased to announce the launch of a new Artist Edition by internationally acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei. This limited edition artwork, Free Speech Pendant, is created by Ai Weiwei specifically for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Artist Edition program in conjunction with his participation in the exhibition Unscrolled: Reframing Tradition in Chinese Contemporary Art, on view at the Gallery from November 15, 2014 to April 6, 2015. This edition is part of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s growing Artist Edition program that has produced exclusive artworks with more than 10 Canadian and international artists.
In Free Speech Pendant, Ai Weiwei continues to explore the use of porcelain, a material that is traditionally regarded as the highest art form in China. In the 1990s, Ai Weiwei began collecting Chinese antiques and furniture and integrating them into his artistic practice as a means of addressing historical and cultural values in the context of art. Free Speech Pendant is Ai’s reinterpretation of the traditional pendants carried by Chinese individuals as a marker of social status. This type of ornamentation originally began as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) as pendants intended to attract desirable qualities such as luck, wealth, rank and longevity. These charms eventually became a more direct reflection of the social hierarchy with their materials indicating their wearer’s position—a wealthy, high-ranking individual might have their pendant made in jade or porcelain while a working-class person’s ornament would be fashioned from a more common substance like wood. The writing or markings on traditional pieces would commonly refer to the owner’s family or clan, but in Free Speech Pendant Ai has replaced this with text reading “Free Speech”, a simple but powerful call to action.
About Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei is one of the most prolific international artists practicing today. Performance, photography and installation are equally associated in his visual repertoire. Born in Beijing in 1957, Ai spent his childhood in forced exile with his family. He entered the Beijing Film Academy in 1978 and was a member of one of the first avant-garde and politically active art collectives, The Stars, in the late seventies. After living in New York City throughout the eighties, Ai returned to Beijing in 1993 to attend to his ailing father. Since the early 2000s, Ai has also maintained a high profile as a writer, artist, architect and activist with an interest in the political and cultural landscape of China. In April 2011 he was imprisoned for eighty-one days without reason. Since his release he has been stripped of his Chinese passport and the right to travel outside of China, yet he continues to make works and exhibit them in solo and group exhibitions outside of China. Ai Weiwei has held numerous solo exhibitions at major international institutions throughout Europe, Asia and North America, including those at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2014), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2013), Jeu de Paume, Paris (2012), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (2011), Stiftung DKM, Duisburg (2010); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2009); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2009); Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Cambelltown Arts Center, Sydney (2008); and the Groninger Museum, Groningen (2008), and participated in the Venice Biennale in Italy (1999, 2008, 2010, 2013), the 29th Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil (2010), Documenta 12 in Germany (2007), Busan Biennale in Korea (2006, 2012), and Guangzhou Triennale in China (2002, 2005). Ai Weiwei has also participated in many design collaborations, including working alongside Pritzker prize-winning architect firm Herzog & de Meuron for the National Stadium of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.