BLANK SPACE: Paris department store Le Bon Marché is giving carte blanche to Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei for his first-ever exhibition in a retail space.
From Jan. 16 until Feb. 20, 2016, Ai will turn the Left Bank store into his playground with an exhibition titled “Er Xi,” or “Child’s Play” in Mandarin. Drawing inspiration from the Chinese collection of epic tales “Classic of Mountains and Seas,” he will create kites designed to evoke feathered dragons.
“Showing at Le Bon Marché is using a new medium, the department store, to encounter a new audience, as broad as a museum’s; one which doesn’t come for art in principle,” the artist said in a statement.
“This experience also allows me to find a new way to conceive an exhibition, with constraints that are different from a museum’s or a gallery’s. Exploring new potentials is an integral part of my work as an artist,” he added.
Two-dimensional bamboo frames will occupy the store’s windows, while three-dimensional interpretations of woodcuts drawn from the book will be suspended in the store’s atriums. A dragon made of woven bamboo will take over the store’s gallery space.
Ai, who is based in Berlin since China lifted its travel ban on the artist earlier this year, said the kites harked back to his childhood.
“It was the first object I made when I was 10, with bamboo torn at night from the window shutters, since there wasn’t any in the Gobi desert where I spent my childhood. For the string, all the children in the village stole from their mothers’ sewing boxes. We were proud. I kept that kite, it’s still with me,” he said.
Ai is the subject of a major retrospective exhibition running at the Royal Academy of Arts in London until Dec. 13. In parallel, he is presenting his first collection of jewelry at the Elisabetta Cipriani gallery in London through Jan. 16.