WEIWEI’s ‘CRYSTAL BALL’ flips art world upside down

Ai Weiwei’s fame is now as monumental as his art, and so sceptics may ask “Is it just media hype”? But, encounter Weiwei’s work and try to resist the feeling of awe.

Weiwei’s a master of awesome simplicity and poetry, that hides the complex, nuanced details.
Take, for example, ‘Crystal Ball’, Ai Weiwei’s enormous single crystal sphere upon a bed of life jackets.
But it’s sophistication is the way that restrained simplicity serves to give greater space to open a dialogue with the viewer.
Because we know Ai uses art like positive activism, to comment or draw attention to issues beyond #firstworldproblems and #millenialprobs

Appreciate too, that Crystal Ball is brilliantly instagrammable, but made in 2007 before instagram was so prolific. Crystal Ball is timeless, ever relatable and constantly capable of evolving in meaning depending on context. The popularity of instagram serves Weiwei positively, because his work is about social injustice and social media can share his message because it is ideally photogenic.

This is not to say perfect pretty, airbrushed.
Imperfections are often aesthetic.
For example, it would not garner the same appeal with a crystal ball perched upon shiny new life vests. The polished glean of the perfect crystal ball is beautifully enhanced by the contrasting faded, salt-washed look of the vests.
It also adds a contrast in meaning. The crystal ball, symbolic of the future, whether ominous or full of utopian dreams. Whereas the life vest, appears worn in every sense of the word, which adds layers of meaning and questions.

These questions invite the viewer to feel engaged with the work, and what is interesting about this work and it’s potential for “reflection”. Poetically, ‘Crystal Ball’ is placed in the centre of the room and reflection and backdrop of Tiffany Chung’s panoramic textile map ‘reconstructing an exodus history: boat trajectories, ports of first asylum and resettlement countries 2017

Weiwei’s Crystal Ball literally turns Chung’s world map upside down. As seen in the photo below

Born in China, but now living and working across Berlin, Germany and Beijing with art across virtually any medium that most powerfully conveys global issues of injustice that motivate and inspire his work.

Life is not simple and no Crystal Ball can predict the future
But we can all do our part
And we can all enjoy the art.


Photo by Martyne Ford. Ai Weiwei’s ‘Crystal Ball’ 2017, in Artspace Sydney is positioned reflecting and backdrop of Tiffany Chung’s panoramic textile map ‘reconstructing an exodus history: boat trajectories, ports of first asylum and resettlement countries’ 2017

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Crystal Ball Is currently at Artspace, in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo. Credit is due to the Andrew Cameron Family Foundation who have supported bringing this extraordinary piece into our local Artspace, from neugerriemschneider, Berlin and Ai Weiwei.