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Ai Weiwei

6.6 - 9.6, 2015



Curated by Cui Cancan, the exhibition spreads across the two spaces in the 798 Art District, featuring a reconstructed Ming dynasty ancestral temple from Jiangxi province. The Wang Jiaci (or Wang family ancestral hall) was dedicated to Wang Hua, the Prince of Yue, who reigned during the sixth century AD and was venerated as a model public servant from the Tang to the Qing eras. The temple was considered to be a sacred space for hundreds of years, where offerings and ceremonies for ancestors as well as important social activities and meetings took place.


Ai had the ancient temple disassembled into more than 1500 pieces and rebuilt in the two adjacent exhibition spaces, crossing the dividing wall. The deconstruction of the structure was possible because of its ancient architectural characteristics — a more than 1000-year-old Chinese tradition where wooden columns and beams were completely independent and therefore detachable from the walls. By bringing an imposing installation of an actual historical building into the exhibition space, Ai has transported its cultural significance and aesthetic beauty. The created environment has a “totality” that encompasses not only the physical, but also the temporal and social spheres.


Wang Family Ancestral Hall

Wang Family Ancestral Hall

Over 1,300 pieces of various wooden building elements from late Ming Dynasty (1368‐1644) with original carvings and painted placements 2100 x 1680 x 942 cm 2015


Cui Cancan | Interview with Ai Weiwei

Participants: Cui Cancan and Ai Weiwei

Date: April 11, 2015

Location: Caochangdi, Beijing



Cui Cancan: When did you first see this building?


Ai Weiwei: I first became interested in ancient architecture in about 1997. The first time I went to Jinhua, I saw some old buildings that were decidedly different from those in northern China. The light filtering through the skylights into the rooms was very special. The rooms were actually rather dark, because the exterior walls were solid, with very few external windows. However, it was entirely open inside the walls, so that anything—birds, the rain—could get in. The methods are very similar to those used in making furniture. The house has no foundation; it simply rests on the earth, which is also very unusual. It feels as if it was gently placed there. It also has weight, and after being battered by the wind and the rain, it began to change shape and become more pliable.

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Cui Cancan | Ai Weiwei’s “Wang Family Ancestral Hall”

With a 400 year-long history, the “Wang Family Ancestral Hall” has changed innumerably with the times, and in various systems has held various functions, attributes, and values over the centuries. Today, passing through the walls and offices spaces of two galleries, the Wang Family Ancestral Hall is presented as a new work by Ai Weiwei. Its condition and experiences, implied suggestions and ambiguities, as well as the relationship it holds between itself and its owner, immerses the Hall in a debate between change and perpetuity – one that settles at neither one thing nor another. In comparison to other ancient architectures and cultural phenomena, the Wang Family Ancestral Hall has become quite an isolated case.

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b.1957  Beijing, China


Ai Weiwei is a Chinese Contemporary artist and activist. Ai collaborated with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron as the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics. As a political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government's stance on democracy and human rights. He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular the Sichuan schools corruption scandal following the collapse of so-called "tofu-dreg schools" in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In 2011, following his arrest at Beijing Capital International Airport on 3 April, he was held for 81 days without any official charges being filed; officials alluded to their allegations of "economic crimes".


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