Ai Weiwei’s ten-foot tall Moon Cabinet #5 is an imposing form. Made out of Chinese huanghuali wood, it was constructed using traditional joinery techniques without nails or glue. Moon Cabinet #5 is an exquisite object that references the rich heritage of Chinese furniture. And then Ai Weiwei upends that heritage. Moon Cabinet #5 (and all 81 of the cabinets in this series) are opened up with four holes cut into the front and back of the upper and lower sections of the cabinet. It becomes an architectural structure that suggests something transformed and outside of tradition.
An essential part of the experience of Moon Cabinet #5 is walking around the work. Viewers in movement will see that the round cut outs reveal the cycles of the moon as it waxes and wanes. Ai Weiwei combines design, symbolism, and craftsmanship to create a work of art that inspires attention to both close detail and the magic of the night sky.
An irreverent superstar on the international art scene, Ai Weiwei (b. 1957) is a contemporary Renaissance man who continuously documents his life and the cultural and political turbulence around him through installations, sculpture, and photography. His projects sometimes shock for their pomp (he once dropped and shattered a vase from the Han Dynasty) and reference our common humanity (he filled the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with 100,000 shards of ceramics hand-painted to look like sunflower seedsand let visitors romp through the multitude or inspect the miniscule).
Ai’s dissident status began early in his life. The child of a prominent poet, Ai and his family were sent to a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution. Later, he spent over ten years in New York City, studying at Parsons School of Design and avidly photographing his life in the East Village. In the 1990s Ai returned to live and work in Beijing where he used his activist status to voice contempt for China’s authoritarian governmentand crimes against its people. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Ai published the names of thousands of children who perished in their school buildings due to unsafe building practices. In retaliation, his popular website was shut down. His studio was destroyed in 2010 under the pretense of building code violations. Accused of tax evasion in 2011, he was imprisoned for 81 days in a secret detention center. Ai went on to create several works based on this experience, which have been shown to great acclaim at the Venice Biennale in 2013.
If Ai Weiweiis sometimes detained or prevented from leaving China, he merges his artistic and dissident roles by tweeting (@aiwwenglish) and offering almostdaily updates to his Instagram feed (aiww).