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Ai Weiwei Piles 1,200 Bikes On Top Of Each Other, For Dazzling Effect

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum hosts a large-scale exhibition of the Chinese dissident artist with his new work, "Forever Bicycles."

The humble bike has inspired artists ever since Marcel Duchamp put a bicycle wheel on top of a stool in 1913—even Picasso, during the bleakest period of World War II, used a pair of handlebars and a bike saddle to whimsically conjure the skull of a bull. The artist Ai Weiwei, who was detained in a secret location for 81 days by the Chinese government last summer, continues this tradition with a new exhibition in Taiwan.

As part of what the museum bills as the first large-scale solo exhibition of the artist’s work to be held in the Chinese world, Ai Weiwei’s most recent work, Forever Bicycles, installs 1,200 bicycles—some hanging from the ceiling, some standing upright on the floor—one behind the other. The bikes have no handlebars and no seats and instead use those parts of the frame to extend upward and outward to connect to other wheels and other frames, creating the illusion of a labyrinth-like space in a three-dimensional area.

Installed at the highest point of the museum, nearly 100 feet high, the sheer quantity of bikes allows this most functional of objects to take on an abstract quality when viewed from a variety of different angles. The exhibition, entitled Absent because the artist is not allowed to travel and therefore will not be present at the show, contains 21 additional works by the artist, already famous for his Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing. It will be on view until January 20.

More information here.

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  • Doug

    Interesting peice. For me, a cyclist, it speaks a lot about the Taiwanese factories that now make most of the once famous, handmade, natively manufactured frames of nearly ever big bicycle company in the world from the US and Europe. I think it says something about the value of craftmanship vs. quantity and the economics of overseas manufacture, outsourcing, etc. The frames are now so easily and cheaply made on an assembly line that a sculpture like this is hardly a waste and 1200 bicycle frames won't be missed.

  • David Prock

    I have sad news for the ninnies posting about wasted resources: In roughly 3.8 billion years this planet will be consumed by the expanding gas cloud of a dying star.

  • Daniyel

    If this is simply reduced to "a waste of resources," then isn't all art? Is the resources argument is coming up because these are (representations of) bicycles, an inherently political symbol these days? Or are you saying that no one should make anything at all?

  • Kim Nguyen Ngoc

    What is incredible is all the comments by cretins about waste of material or another PC idea...The White Man's guilt at its highest peak. It's about time the Sun gets to the East...

  • Saab Samer

    man ray, i just read your post after posting myself, and couldn't agree more

    "A 3d visualization would have conveyed the idea just as well."

  • Saab Samer

    In my opinion, every single object in the universe displayed in numbers will translate into a graphic element, even with caos and the absence of intelligence.

    not to destroy your work James, but i think you could have taken this idea further ( maybe start with a commun chain to all those lonely bikes perhaps? )

  • Pavel2nd

    Look closely Info. Donating these items would only take up space, as they are not bikes. They are "bike-shaped tubular frames with bicycle wheels". They have no handlebars, pedals, chains nor seats. They were created specifically for this piece, and a cynical person might say that they are a waste of resources. Just sayin'

  • Jack Spoke

    I like it - it is visually pleasing and imposing at the same time. And judging by the comments being posted here, it generates a reaction. Art. Thanks for the article.

  • BanTshirts

    Kind of agree with teh first commenter, man ray. I don't see a lot in this.. other than that there are a lot of bicycles in China.

  • man ray

    I am surprised people buy into this and that they cannot see through it
    (no pun intended)
    This kind of art is all about power, getting an institution spend big money to purchase and install.
    Other then providing jobs for the people who make and stack the bikes it has little value.  A 3d visualization would have conveyed the idea just as well.

    He is a truly remarkable character but while he is criticizing one establishment he is also one of the pillars of another.

    When Jeff Koons started doing these things the art world was taken back.
    Damien Hirst made us all numb and this is a yawn.
    Today's challenge could be creating something that is meaningfully adresseses the current human condition without burning up too much of precious resources.

    Unfortunately the bloated international art scene needs to be fed and until things change there will be a need for mega art like this.
    In order to trump this someone is going to stack locomotives:).

  • Alandrue

    I can imagine the inverted tank with treadmill atop that was part of Allora & Calzadilla's entry at the Venice Biennale did little to lessen your ire. Though I'm not ready to lump Ai Wei Wei in with them, I feel several critics may be onboard with your assessment of this piece.

  • Alandrue

    The above comment is directed toward the comment preceding it, posted by man ray.