In 1982, Weiwei enrolled at the Parsons School of Design in New York where he encountered the works of some of the famous artists, namely Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. Weiwei launched his first solo exhibition in the year 1988, titled ‘Old Shoes’ and ‘Safe Sex’, where he featured his early object manipulations . He abandoned sketching for photography and captured his life in the exile of rolls of films. In 1993, Weiwei returned to Beijing after his father fell sick. In Beijing, Weiwei began to work on underground publications named as the Red Flag Books released in succession from 1994 with the titles Black, Gray and White Cover Books . The works introduced an unfamiliar mode of self-analysis to Chinese contemporary art. The series of books also introduced the practices of international contemporary art to China, which include the art forms of Duchamp, Warhol and Koons. By 1997, Weiwei began furniture recombination and avant-garde activities, which gained further momentum by 1998 when he established the China Art Archives and Warehouse (CAAW) .
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Weiwei undertook various artistic and curatorial projects. The architectural forms emerging in his artistic practice translated into architectural space with the completion of Studio House. Simple techniques of construction and limited budgets spurred the demand for Weiwei’s low-cost work. Weiwei is famous for his atelier FAKE Design, which he founded in the year 2003. He has done several projects in the last few years, ranging from urban planning to interior design. According to Weiwei, curating architecture is a production of reality. Architecture is important for Weiwei as it is an evidence of mankind at a particular point of time. Some of the famous works of Weiwei include Coca-Cola Vase and Table with Two Legs on the Wall in 1997, Concrete in 2000, which invokes a spatial language, Chandelier in 2002 nested within the layers of scaffolding, Bowl of Pearls in 2006, Fairytale in 2007 and many others .
Weiwei’s installation Forever recalls the themes, which are familiar from his works of a more intimate scale. Forever is a composition of 42 stacked bicycle frames arranged end-to-end in a circular form . The work exhibits Weiwei’s pop sensibilities through the bicycle’s iconography as well as its serial deployment. The title ‘Forever’ justifies the sculpture’s circuitous form, which is a loop that has neither a beginning nor an end. Forever is an iconic object of everyday Chinese life, transformed into a giant geometric structure. The viewers have an option to see into as well as through the enclosure of the sculpture, but not physically occupy the center. Forever has its roots in Weiwei’s long-standing investigation into the alteration of functional objects. As both a conceptual as well as a constructive framework, the giant bicycle structure proves to be an expandable system. Weiwei’s latest iteration titled Forever Bicycles in 2011 literally expands into infinity .
Ai, Weiwei and Anthony Pins. Ai Weiwei: Spatial Matters: Art Architecture and Activism. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014.
Ai, Weiwei and Lee Ambrozy. Ai Weiwei's Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011.
Obrist, Hans Ulrich. Ai Weiwei Speaks: with Hans Ulrich Obrist. New York: Penguin Group, 2011.