Ai Weiwei’s Readymades

The work promises to consist of more than 1,000 bicycles. By employing them as readymades, Ai strips them of their aura of preciousness only to reapply it according to a different system of valuation. However, this is not the well-worn strategy of the readymade famously applied by Duchamp to his urinal Fountain, wherein the object lacked cultural gravitas until placed in an art context. Instead, Ai’s chosen readymades already have significance. Working in this manner, Ai transforms precious artifacts—treating them as base and valueless by painting, dropping, grinding, or slapping with a logo—into contemporary fine art. The substitution of one kind of value for another occurs when he displays the transformed urns in a museum vitrine, reinstilling value but replacing historical significance with a newer cultural one.

Amongst other things, Ai WeiWei is also known for Duchamp inspired conceptual art pieces made by altering readymade objects. Example is his ‘Forever Bicycles’, a work that consist of more than 1,000 ‘readymade’ bicycles. In general, Weiwei’s Readymades are different from Duchamp’s. Duchamp readymade objects, such as ‘Fountain’, lacked cultural gravitas until placed in an art context. Instead, Ai’s chosen readymades already have significance. Working in this manner, Ai transforms precious artifacts—treating them as base and valueless by painting, dropping, grinding, or slapping with a logo—into contemporary fine art. The substitution of one kind of value for another occurs. Read more here.

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