Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is one of China's most famous and bravest artists. He is also one of the most controversial; his works are laden with political messages of protest, for which he has been pursued by the Chinese government. Still, he continues to hold art exhibitions outside of his native China; the latest is in San Gimignano, Italy.
A spectacular installation, called "Stacked," dominates the show. It consists of 760 bicycles, piled on top of one another, reaching high above the floor, almost to the towering ceiling of the gallery.
The bicycle is the principle means of transport in the country. It is an iconic machine that is necessary to move workers across the cities and towns. The most famous brand is Yong Jiu Pai, "Forever." It is used by millions of Chinese daily. The bicycle consists of chains and sprockets and is mass produced. So the installation "depicts the matrix of the labor force--the people," according to Galleria Continua, which is hosting the exhibit.
The bicycles are attached to each other to form a massive sculpture that takes up the whole stage of the gallery.
Visitors wander through the maze of bicycles, rubber tires and frames.
The work is not just a comment on over-consumption, it is also offering a perspective on mobility, and mass production and the repetitiveness of human labor in the work force.
The bike tree is another representation of the bicycles.
The show focuses on the artist in all his complexity. He expresses his art in all different forms but the main theme is always the right of individuals to freedom of expression and speech.
It's 2014 and Ai Wei Wei is still working the bicycle theme. Without handlebars, pedals or a steering wheel they aren't going anywhere fast.
It's a statement on China's incredible traffic jams: there used to be thousands of bicycles on the streets, now there are none; just cars.
Ai Wei Wei puts fresh flowers in a bicycle outside his house every morning: just to infuriate the not-so-secret police watching his home at all times. The London gallery has done the same thing outside its door.