42/35 cm Watercolor, 1979
As reported by Artinfo
BEIJING— The Chinese authorities may not love Ai Weiwei, but they know only too well that he has a large and engaged following in China. So what happened when sina.com, a leading Chinese infotainment portal, included his name in an online poll to choose the 2010 “Artist of the Year”? It became an object lesson in the creativity of the Chinese people when it comes to supporting their cultural heroes, regardless of the disposition of the government.
In light of this ongoing notoriety, I’m thinking more and more about the road Ai has traveled to get to his current position. Above is a 1979 painting indicative of his style at the time, and indeed much of Chinese visual art work in the late 1970s. One wonders what the value of such a work would be on the current art market. As one tangentially involved in the up-and-coming “Blooming in the Shadows” exhibition (China Institute, New York), I can say that its a rather arduous process to impress upon even very well-informed art world types the degree to which such a picture in 1979 was “revolutionary.” Or maybe, in some important senses, its not?