WeiWei, Ai b.1957 / Forever
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about this work
The notion of preserving the spiritual and aesthetic qualities underlying craft and discovering in them an eternal element is an integral part of Ai's sensibility. In "Forever" both the title and form of the piece suggest the notion of eternity. Ai arranges Forever-brand bicycles in a circle. Since the company's establishment in China in 1940, these bicycles have become the most iconic brand in China. The use of the bicycle as an object of art recalls Duchamp's Readymade Bicycle Wheel (1913), as well as Ai's frequent tactic of retaining the structure of an object while eliminating its original function and reformulating it into something new. Here, Ai retains the external form of the bicycle, formerly China's most widespread mode of transportation, while eliminating its function, just as the bicycles's raison d'etre is being made obsolete by the automobile in Chinese society. The monumental sculpture of bicycles interlinked in a circle elicits questions of harmony, eternity and equality in a rapidly changing society.

“Forever” Bicycles comprises parts of 42 bicycles of the “Forever” brand, a classic reconfiguration of utilitarian articles bordering on abstraction. The interplay of these dramatic circles and lines change constantly from different perspectives.
(Charles Merewether, “Ai Weiwei Works: Beijing 1993 – 2003”)

"an iconic object of Chinese life [transformed] into a cog in a giant geometric structure, pointedly abstracting it of any content".
(Jonathan Napack, in “Ai Weiwei Works," Charles Merewether (ed.): Beijing 1993 – 2003)

"(Ai Weiwie) realized “Forever” Bicycles, 2003. A shiny mass of brand-new bikes disassembled and tessellated into a giant sphere, the work is at once a refutation of the developmental teleology at the heart of current state ideology; an allusion to the manual laborers, themselves “interchangeable parts,” who are powering China’s rise; and a biting commentary on the eclipse of socialist-era brands."
(Philip Tinari,"A Kind of True Living: The Art of Ai Weiwei", June 1, 2007)

"Forever, the earliest work in the exhibition, has connections back to the artist’s fascination with the father-figure of conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp. 42 bicycles of the ‘Forever’ brand, the favourite means of transport of the Chinese for decades, have been ingeniously stacked in a cylindrical tower, a ‘cycle’ that goes nowhere, since all the handlebars and pedals have been removed."
(From the exhibition "Ai WeiWei", Louisiana & De Pont Museums, 2011-2012)

"This piece is an apt distillation of the artist’s art form: a unique blend of innovative craftsmanship and provocative contemplation, indicative of Ai’s outlook in both life and in art—one that challenges and regenerates its surroundings with more than mere acquiescence."
(From the Sotheby's online catalogue, Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale, October 4, 2015)

Ai WeiWei (b.1957, China)

Forever, 2003

42 bicycles
Edition: 3/5
275 x 450 cm.
108 1/4 x 177 3/16 in.
Nicholas Robinson Gallery, New-York, USA Current Location:
UK - London - G4Si InstallationFar East


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Arcadia University Art Gallery, Glenside, United States (Journal), 2010

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Artwork History
  • artist origin
  • provenance
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  • exhibitions
  • multiple

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