Drawing inspiration from tragedy and transforming it into something beautiful, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei renowned for his larger-than-life installations, has miniaturised his designs for the first time and ventured into the world of wearable art. With his previous workings based on grand-scale proportions such as 99 tons of steel as well as 8 million sunflower seeds displayed at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall,  the talented artist has produced an array of contemporary, exquisite designs using 24 karat gold to carry forth an important humanitarian message. The renowned Chinese artist and activist states;

“I have always loved jewellery — the history and aesthetic of it, the sense of past. We have been dressing ourselves with it since the Neolithic times, and that has always fascinated me. It’s our connection to that piece, what it says about us, what we feel about it — the story.” (NY Times, 2015)

Ai Weiwei | Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall

Launching the  “Rebar in Gold”  contemporary collection, at  Elisabetta Cipriani, a London gallery that specialises in creating “wearable art.” The acclaimed artist claims his basis for interest and investigation aspired from the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province, China. A natural disaster that caused wide spread devastation and the deaths of approximately 90,000 people. Upon visiting the destroyed sites, Ai discovered a mass of contorted steel, left behind as a result of  poor construction at the fallen “tofu-dreg schools.”  Weiwei’s upset and outrage then led him to purchase 200 tonnes of material from scrapyards then laboriously straighten each rod, stacking them one top of another forming his iconic “Straight” collection. Drawing attention to the deaths that were caused as a result of poor construction, this ardent display was featured at the 2013 Venice Biennale and is currently on display at the Royal Academy in London. (NY Times, 2015)

Ai Weiwei | Rebar in Gold | Elisabetta Cipriani

Adopting the medium of gold, a material traditionally associated with wealth and immortality, the designer has produced an array of miniature gold rebars, twisting them into bracelets of three different lengths. Due its elemental purity, each piece is individually bent by the artist, providing the opportunity for the wearer to adjust it with ease on his or her wrist, finger or neck. (Pursuitist, 2015)

Ai Weiwei | Rebar in Gold | Elisabetta Cipriani

His innovative designs feature an array of motifs and metaphors explored in former collections, with each delicately decorated with vigilant markings of a ridged texture, designed to look like reinforcing bars used in construction. Valued at around $34,000-$69,000, Weiwei explains his rational for adopting the opulent metal;

“I liked working with 24-karat gold because it is very malleable. I have twisted each bar to my own design, but the idea is that the wearer then can shape them to their own fit, to their own story.”


Ai Weiwei | Rebar in Gold | Elisabetta Cipriani

The Chinese designer whom has endured a decade of imprisonment, brutal beatings and house arrest, uses his fine collection derived from tragedy as a subtle memorial to the human lives lost in the earthquake.(NY Times, 2015) Emphasising his appreciation for life, the artist leaves the future of the design with the wearer, believing each piece’s ability to mould can mark a stamp of time and create precious memories. Explaining his rationale, Ai claims;

“ I used gold because it’s precious, and that’s what life is — precious. If you wear this piece in the name of the memory of a life lost or your life ahead, that’s what matters. It’s all about respect for life.”   Ai Weiwei (Pursuitist, 2015)


De Zeen (2015) Ai Weiwei’s first jewellery collection is cut from a rod of gold rebar [Online] Available at http://Http://www.dezeen.com/2015/11/11/ai-weiwei-first-jewellery-collection-gold-rebar-rod-elisabetta-cipriani-gallery-london/ [Accessed 26/11/15]

Design Boom (2015) Ai WeiWei models 24kt gold jewelry collection after structural rebar [Online] Available at http://Http://www.designboom.com/design/ai-weiwei-jewelry-rebar-in-gold-elisabetta-cipriani-11-14-2015/ [Accessed 25/11/15]

NY Times (2015) Ai Weiwei Debuts His First Jewelry Collection [Online] Available at http://Http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/12/t-magazine/ai-weiwei-first-jewelry-collection.html?_r=0 [Accessed 25/11/15]

Pursuitist (2015) Ai Weiwei Designs First Jewelry Collection

Ai Weiwei Designs First Jewelry Collection [Online] Available at http://Http://pursuitist.com/ai-weiwei-designs-first-jewelry-collection/ [Accessed 25/11/15]