News: Ai Weiwei to undertake Unilever commission at Tate Modern Turbine Hall

Ai Weiwei, Fountain of Light, 2007. Steel and glass crystals on a wooden base. (h)700 x 529 x 400 cm. Photocredit Ai Weiwei. © Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei, best known for helping create a ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium for the Beijing Olympics, is bringing his talents for grand scale work to the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern.

Ai becomes the eleventh artist to accept the Unilever-sponsored commission, yet still the first who lives and works in the Asia-Pacific region.

Vicente Todolí described him as “one of China’s greatest living artists” and said: “Ai Weiwei’s compelling installations are among the most socially-engaged works of art being made today.”

He said it would be thrilling to see how the vast public space might be filled later on this year. The installation will run from October 12 2010 to April 25 2011.

As a conceptual artist, curator, critic, designer and architect, Ai has been a player in his native China for the last three decades.

His career includes both a spell in the now-disbanded avant-garde art group Stars (1979-1983) and a 12-year period living in the US from 1981.

Ai often uses Chinese antique readymades in his work. In 1995 he created a three-part self-portrait called Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, from which the urn never recovered. Other pieces have been based around Qing and Ming Dynasty chairs as well as doors and windows from destroyed Chinese buildings.

At the Haus der Kunst in Munich, the artist used children’s backpacks to spell out a tribute to the victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Since around that time Ai has distanced himself from the Olympic games and been an outspoken critic of his government.

Written for Culture24.

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