Ai Weiwei Takes Over Paris Department Store with Bamboo Dragon

The installation taps into the artist's own childhood.

A preview of bamboo works from Ai Weiwei's upcoming installation at the Bon Marché, Paris. Photo: Bon Marché/© Ai Weiwei Studio
A preview of bamboo works from Ai Weiwei's upcoming installation at the Bon Marché, Paris.
Photo: Bon Marché/© Ai Weiwei Studio

Ai Weiwei is taking Europe by storm ever since the Chinese authorities lifted his travel ban, hopping from London to Berlin and back again, and even setting up a new studio in Greece, where he is engaging with a project to raise awareness of the migrant and refugee crisis.

Now, China’s most famous dissident is coming to Paris with an impressive new installation. But, rather than showing at one of the city’s many museums, the show is being staged at the upscale department store on the left bank Le Bon Marché.

Back in November, WWD reported that the iconic shopping temple had given the artist carte blanche for what will be his first installation inside a retail space.

“Showing at Le Bon Marché is using a new medium, the department store, to encounter a new audience, as broad as a museum’s; one which doesn’t come for art in principle,” the artist said in a statement back then.

A preview of bamboo works from Ai Weiwei's upcoming installation at the Bon Marché, Paris. <br>Photo: Bon Marché/© Ai Weiwei Studio

A preview of bamboo works from Ai Weiwei’s upcoming installation at Le Bon Marché, Paris.
Photo: Bon Marché/© Ai Weiwei Studio.

The show, titled “Er Xi” (“Child’s Play”), opens on January 16 and will remain on view for one month, closing on February 20. In line with its theme, the exhibition features kites rendered in bamboo, an item that harks back to the artist’s own childhood.

“It was the first object I made when I was 10, with bamboo torn at night from the window shutters, since there wasn’t any in the Gobi desert where I spent my childhood. For the string, all the children in the village stole from their mothers’ sewing boxes. We were proud. I kept that kite, it’s still with me,” Ai said.

A preview of bamboo works from Ai Weiwei's upcoming installation at the Bon Marché, Paris. <br>Photo: Bon Marché/© Ai Weiwei Studio

A preview of bamboo works from Ai Weiwei’s upcoming installation at the Bon Marché, Paris.
Photo: Bon Marché/© Ai Weiwei Studio

In addition to the bamboo kites, the store’s windows will feature two-dimensional bamboo frames, while a dragon rendered in woven bamboo will snake through the store’s gallery space.

“This experience also allows me to find a new way to conceive an exhibition, with constraints that are different from a museum’s or a gallery’s. Exploring new potentials is an integral part of my work as an artist,” Ai added.

Watch the video about the making of the exhibition below.

 

 


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