Artprice’s list of top Contemporary artists includes a famous Chinese painter named Ai at number 15 with nearly €10m in auction sales. It’s just not Ai Weiwei, the dissident artist who commands so much respect in the West. This Ai is Ai Xuan, Weiwei’s older half-brother who is an oil painter who sticks to traditional subject matter. Recently he began working in ink which greatly increased his output:
The artist’s work is sought after by China’s wealthy and powerful. Filmmaker Feng Xiaogang, China’s “box-office king,” owns several of his paintings, according to a representative of the director.
Yet Mr. Ai’s works rarely translate outside of China today. Beryl Chan, an independent art adviser based in Hong Kong, describes them as “very traditional, academic and… repetitive” in terms of subject matter.
While his sibling Ai Weiwei’s conceptual, politically rooted works resonate internationally, the older Mr. Ai’s realist, technically meticulous precise oil paintings are seen as outdated in Western contemporary art circles.
“It’s not Western collectors’ taste,” Ms. Chan noted.
Born to different mothers, the artists are both sons of the poet Ai Qing, who was persecuted and banished to do labor in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. Although the brothers live just minutes apart in Beijing, the last time they had a conversation was in 1996, as their father was dying.
“We are very different, have had different paths and don’t have much in common,” the older artist said of his relationship with his younger brother. “We didn’t grow up together.”
Meet Ai Weiwei’s Artist Brother (SceneAsia/Wall Street Journal)