Ai Weiwei, Free Speech Pendant, 2014
The Vancouver Art Gallery is pleased to announce the launch of a new Artist Edition by internationally acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei. This limited edition artwork, Free Speech Pendant, is created by Ai Weiwei specifically for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Artist Edition program in conjunction with his participation in the exhibition Unscrolled: Reframing Tradition in Chinese Contemporary Art, on view at the Gallery from November 15, 2014 to April 6, 2015. This edition is part of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s growing Artist Edition program that has produced exclusive artworks with more than 10 Canadian and international artists.
In Free Speech Pendant, Ai Weiwei continues to explore the use of porcelain, a material that is traditionally regarded as the highest art form in China. In the 1990s, Ai Weiwei began collecting Chinese antiques and furniture and integrating them into his artistic practice as a means of addressing historical and cultural values in the context of art. Free Speech Pendant is Ai’s reinterpretation of the traditional pendants carried by Chinese individuals as a marker of social status. This type of ornamentation originally began as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) as pendants intended to attract desirable qualities such as luck, wealth, rank and longevity. These charms eventually became a more direct reflection of the social hierarchy with their materials indicating their wearer’s position—a wealthy, high-ranking individual might have their pendant made in jade or porcelain while a working-class person’s ornament would be fashioned from a more common substance like wood. The writing or markings on traditional pieces would commonly refer to the owner’s family or clan, but in Free Speech Pendant Ai has replaced this with text reading “Free Speech”, a simple but powerful call to action.
This limited edition by Ai Weiwei is available at Vancouver Art Gallery