Thursday, 12 January 2012

The shock of the old

Coca-Cola vase, Ai Weiwei, 1997, Neolithic vase (5000-3000 BC) and paint. Courtesy of André Stockamp & Christopher Tsai collection, Ancram, New York

I love this work by Ai Weiwei that’s part of the Postmodernism show at the V&A in London right now. A simple idea yet surprisingly shocking, it sees Weiwei take a Han dynasty vase and apply the Coca-Cola logo across its surface.

The work is one of a series by Weiwei that explores the relationship between art and capitalism. This piece also specifically raises questions about what we value and how that can vary between cultures: when he made the work in 1997 it was partly a comment on the rapid modernisation occurring in China and the loss of historical artefacts that came with that change. Over in the West, however, it could perhaps be argued that we fetishise historical objects almost too greatly, hence the shock that this piece causes.

The PoMo show finishes at the V&A on Sunday (and is well worth a visit before then, especially if you’re into product design), but the V&A is also hosting a show looking at Weiwei’s ceramic works until March. More info on that exhibition is here.

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