Ai Weiwei was named by the Wall Street Journal as the World’s Most Influential Artist.
“…Weiwei took the top spot in the magazine’s annual list of influencers, beating last year’s No. 1 pick Larry Gagosian, the well-known art dealer who represents Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons… According to ArtReview, the rankings are based on financial clout as well as activity over the past year. It’s been an eventful one for Mr. Ai, who was released in June after 81 days of detention by Chinese authorities. Since then he has spoken out about his imprisonment and resumed his use of Twitter, two activities that may violate the terms of his release.” here
Although he is the ‘World’s Most Influential Artist’, I must admit that I actually am not all that familiar with his work. I mean, I’ve heard about his name and exploits enough times, but only one of his pieces really comes to mind – the famous installation with thousands of hand sculpted and painted sunflower seeds. I am planning on watching his doccumentary soon, and will probably do a post about him (look out for that), but I have to say, whether I can say that I know him more than I know his work, Weiwei is an influential artist that runs his business damn well.
He he is a ‘successful’ artist – and I say successful with a grain of salt, for who has the same definition of success? Yada, yada… – because he plays/is the part. He lives a life of art, and ‘of his (business) goals’. Every aspect of his life is focused towards his purpose, and he markets himself so successfully because of this. The clothes he wears, his facial hair, his time in jail, his installations and work obviously, and even the amount of work he’s able to produce. These all point in the direction of his portfolio, so that he becomes an icon of his work. And I feel as though this all comes naturally to him – his clothes, his words, etc. – because he embraces his work as a way of life. Thus small, everyday decisions follow.
I recently read one of the best posts I think Scott Schumann of TheSartorialist fashion blog has ever posted. The post was in response to a backlash he had received from commenting on one of his photographs of a fashion student in Mexico City that “…it was nice to see a student that actually looked like she was interested in working in the fashion business.”(here) People said that it was an unfair comment and that a student’s schedule doesn’t allow one to always look ‘good’. Scott’s response was this:
To be a successful fashion designer, it’s not all about what happens in the design studio.
You have to learn something about how to manage a business (especially since most designers start their businesses balancing between being the designer, accountant, press agent, etc), how to articulate your design concept and how to personally embody the spirit of the brand you hope to build.
Do you think Karl ever says “I’m too busy/tired to look like Karl today?” (And before you say “oh he has massive numbers of people helping him” believe me, he is more busy than any design student.)
Most design schools don’t do a great job teaching this reality to students so you can put off until after you graduate to start learning these other skills and habits, but why wait? Start manifesting these skills/habits now.
At least challenge yourself to start personally embodying the spirit of your design aesthetic; Karl looks like his designs, Giorgio looks like his designs, Raf looks like his designs. It’s not easy, but neither is the fashion industry.
From his time in jail and his protests, his work, his intensity, Ai Weiwei, just like Karl Lagerfeld, feels like his designs.
There is an exhibition coming up soon of Weiwei’s work at the Art Gallery of Ontario, so to promote it he installed this piece in the hallway made of backpacks called “Snake Ceiling”, 2009. The description of the pieces is as follows:
‘On May 12, 2008, a massive earthquake in China’s Sichuan province killed approximately 90 000 people. Ai Weiwei created this serpentine sculpture, made of about 400 backpacks, to commemorate the more than 5,000 schoolchildren who were killed when their shoddily constructed schools collapsed. Government officials refused to release the numnber of deaths, or acknowledge any accountability so in 2009, Ai Weiwei launched a “citizen investigation” to ensure that neither the children nor the devastation would be forgotten. He wrote: “Can these facts be altered? The hearts stopped beating, their limbs decayed, and their shouts disappeared with their breath can these be retured? Wave upon wave of mighty propaganda from the national state apparatus cannot erase the persistent memories of the survivors…. People’s hearts will call out each of your names, the name that belonged to you will be remembered. When it is called out again, you will rise from the dead and be contented spirits.’
Of course this pieces is so my style, but despite that, to look up and see a snake overhead is cool to say the least. Never mind the fascination surrounding his cause. Anyway, I hope you all have a great week and a great Monday.