I’m reading: Ai Wei Wei According to What?


This week I posted about my own delta moment, in rather cryptic fashion. I have had several delta moments, but one of them happened shortly after I wandered through the rooms of the Pérez Art Museum Miami for the first time, looking at the Ai Wei Wei: According to What? exhibition. I picked up the book I am recommending today at the end of that visit. I had seen Ai Wei Wei’s work before, and his work remains a regular feature of Art Basel, the world’s largest art fair. Yet this exhibition is still the one I remember the best. I like how Ai Wei Wei tackles the trade-offs and tension between individuality, a society’s progress and its collective memory. In his own way, he reflects on today’s collective delta moments. “According to What?” gives a great glimpse into the artist and here are some other reasons why I recommend it:

  1. Digestible. This book covers Ai Wei Wei’s span of creation since 2000 with very clear essays introducing us to his background and works. The variety, quality and number of images do most of the “talking” and successfully immerse the reader in a first approach to Ai Wei Wei’s work. 
  2. Confrontational. Ai Wei Wei is not one to shy away from the questions that contemporary society faces today, in China and elsewhere – the role of free speech, the destruction of common cultural heritage in favor of progress, the challenging survival of individuality in the anonymity of a world focused on mass production. his work is a mirror of the things we let go in order to make way for progress, and of the things we take for granted. 
  3. Craftsmanship-cherishing. Many of Ai Wei Wei’s pieces have as starting point a completely different twist in the use of some of the oldest Chinese crafts, or a re-assembly of older artisan creations into a contemporary concept and message. This tribute to Chinese heritage coupled with his global popularity might contribute to a younger’s generation re-appreciation of older masters and artisans. If so, Ai Wei Wei’s impact will extend well beyond a visitor’s visual memories of his exhibition.

What do you think of Ai Wei Wei’s work and the book recommendations shared? Are there other books on artists which you enjoyed and would like to share? Add your thoughts on the comments section.

Below a link to the Prestel Publishing’s page for the book, a video featuring one of the authors, Mami Kataoka, and the artist’s Instagram:

Ai Wei Wei: According to What? by Mami Kataoka, Charles Merewether and Kerry Brougher at Prestel Publishing

Watch Mami Kataoka talk about Ai Wei Wei’s work here

See what Ai Wei Wei is up to @aiww

ISBN: 978-3-7913-5240-4


  1. […] learned (at least) two things about me. One, that I am a keen admirer of Asian literature and art. Two, that I have been learning ink painting for nearly two years now. Though I am learning in the […]

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