Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist who was primarily involved in the design of the bird's nest stadium at the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing.  Ai, known for his politically controversial artwork, currently has two exhibits at the Hirshhorn Museum that we visited last weekend.  One of the exhibits is the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, which consists of bronze heads of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.  These are situated in the circular courtyard that the doughnut-shaped museum building surrounds.  The sculptures, mounted on 10-foot poles, are modeled on similar sculptures created in the 18th century for the Old Summer Palace in Beijing.  I thought the sculptures were so-so.  Here are, respectively, the Ram, Snake, Dragon, and Pig.

Ai's more significant exhibit at the Hirshhorn is entitled, "According to What?"  It occupies virtually all of the museum's second floor.  The pieces of this exhibit are more socio-politically controversial.  Here is a wider view that shows both a crab and a steel re-bar exhibit.

It should be noted that, while Ai is responsible for the ideas behind his artwork, he employs others to do their actual "fabrication."  Here are close-ups of the crab exhibit (the crabs are actually porcelain) . . .

and steel re-bar exhibit (which I understand was built from steel salvaged from buildings, including schools, that were destroyed in China's 2008 earthquake).

I liked the patterns created by the uneven ends of the pieces of steel.

And then there were antique pots that had been painted . . .

and antique stools that had been stitched together to create an interesting sculpture.

According to the plaque for this piece, the 40 stools had been created originally during the Qing Dynasty between the 1644 and 1911.

Ai had also created a relatively large wooden sculpture in the shape of the country of China.

This piece stood almost six feet high, so I had to hold the camera over my head and hope my aim was good enough to capture the work's "geography."  Note that the separate "stalk" on the right is the island country of Taiwan, which China still claims possession of.

Finally, here is another sculpture whose significance I failed to note but which consisted of mostly wooden pieces packed closely together.  I did like the appearance of the ends of the piece, particularly the metal elements that were interspersed with the wood.

For Ai this had political significance.  For me it was just a matter of pleasing abstract design.

Taken with my Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 lens.


  1. Hi John, I've been gone for a while and haven't seen your posts.
    You've been busy. Washington DC must have been fun. I like the Ai Weiwei exhibit and the wooden stools and cord wood sculpture the best. Those had a warm, touchable feel…I like that element. Your photos are great.

  2. Photos are so good. Love the ones of Washing DC.

  3. Hey john, is it right that u are copyrighting photo you have takeing from ai weiwei? i want to use your photo on a school procjet where we are talking about copyrights and i dont think u can take ai weiwei work and copyright it under yours.

    1. I'm not an expert on copyrighting by any means. But my intent was to copyright my photographic image, not Ai Weiwei's work. It seems to me that copyrighting a photo of, say, architecture should be OK since you are only trying to protect your rights to use of the image that you have taken. The idea here is that my image is different from one that someone else may have taken; it has certain unique aspects, just like a painting of the same scene would have. Many times museums will restrict what pieces of art may be photographed. There were no such restrictions on this exhibit that I can recall (although it was a year ago).