The Wall Street Journal interviews Ai WeiWei who’s work is both based in China’s past–utilizing antiques and artifacts–and overtly political and topical. Here Ai answers questions about his own collecting:
Why do you collect Neolithic pottery?
I have about 200 pieces. Most people like the blue and white Qing dynasty stuff. But in China, you can spend only one month and build a first-class collection of Neolithic pieces because the prices are relatively low, and you need a better appreciation of art to understand it.
Why do you collect jade?
I like it because it’s special. A thousand — maybe 2,000 — pieces have passed through my hands. One day, when I’m older, I’ll have time to sort through them all. My favorite piece is always the piece that fascinates me — where I can’t guess the reason someone made it. Now I have a small ax, maybe five millimeters thick, about the size of a pack of cigarettes. And it was sliced in half making two even thinner pieces. Nobody knows how they made the ax; why the hell slice it in two?
In other pieces, there are round holes. You can understand how they made those by drilling the stone. But some have square holes — how did they make that?
What’s your philosophy of collecting?
There is always something great that no one else pays attention to. At the beginning I liked stone sculpture. No one else liked it. Now it’s hot. Later, I bought jade from the Liao Dynasty (907-1125). The Liao conquered parts of China after the Tang Dynasty, but nobody cared about them because they were a minority. Then it also became very hot.
The Collector: Ai Weiwei (Wall Street Journal)