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Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b.1957)


Birth Place: China


Perhaps best known as a political dissident, Ai Weiwei is a contemporary artist whose work covers most types of visual art. From architecture to sculpture to installation, Weiwei’s art is infused with the fiery spirit of revolution and is specifically designed to create conflicted emotions in the viewer. Perhaps best known for his piece Sunflower Seeds (2008) much of Weiwei’s art deals with the politics and culture of his native China. His activism mainly centers around the Chinese Government’s infringement of human rights and their suppression of the democratic process. 

Weiwei has been referred to as China’s most famous artist, and it’s easy to see why. His documentaries on the urban infrastructure of Beijing and how it hurts the populace’s social conditions at the turn of this century were instrumental in introducing Weiwei to a worldwide audience. His work continues to inspire, provoke, and move people around the world. 

What type of art does Ai Weiwei create?

Ai Weiwei is a mult-disciplinary artist whose work in sculpture, installation art, documentary film, and architecture is all unified by his activist spirit. Often coming into conflict with the Chinese Government, Weiwei’s art is frequently political, controversial, and groundbreaking. Since moving to Berlin in 2015, his work has only continued deeper along this path. 

How often does Ai Weiwei’s art come up for auction?

Since many of Weiwei’s art isn’t easily transported (architecture, installation art) it can be hard to find his artwork at auction. That said many of his smaller pieces have been auctioned in the last decade or so. Since his work is almost always large scale, in-demand the world over, and one-of-a-kind, those pieces that do come to auction typically have a significant price tag attached to them.

How much is an Ai Weiwei sculpture worth?

Ai Weiwei’s art is prized the world over and as such routinely commands seven figures at auction. His sculptures have routinely outperformed their high estimates, sometimes even doubling the initial speculation. Take the piece Map of China (2009) whose estimate was approximately $800,000 but sold for over $1.5 million. 

Which Ai Weiwei sculpture is the most valuable? 

Of the art that has come to auction, the most valuable Ai Weiwei sculpture sold was his series Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads, 2010 (2010) which sold for $5.4 million. This series of bronze busts features all of the animals of the Chinese zodiac and were sold as a unit. There are also versions of this piece made of gIlded bronze and bronze with gold plating that has sold for large amounts at auction. 

What are the most famous works by Ai Weiwei? 

Ai Weiwei’s most famous work is his installation piece Sunflower Seeds (2008) which was first exhibited at the Tate Modern art gallery and features over 100 million sunflower seeds that are made of porcelain. The seeds are representative of the nation of China, each placed specifically in an extremely organized way that is only revealed after the viewer takes sufficient time to view the work. 

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