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Ai Weiwei: Rebar and Case

In 2018, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown celebrates 50 years of supporting emerging artists and writers at crucial, early phases of their careers with a series of commemorative exhibitions, readings, and events.  As a part of this milestone occasion, the Work Center is pleased to announce the solo exhibition Ai Weiwei: Rebar and Case July 22-August 30, in collaboration with Chambers Fine Art.  

A cultural figure of international renown, Ai Weiwei is an artist whose work is rooted in political urgency and contemporary relevance. Rebar and Case is a sculptural installation that draws on the devastating 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province, which caused the deaths of more than 5,000 schoolchildren. The Work Center is particularly honored to present this compelling work on the 10-year anniversary of the Wenchuan Earthquake, during an extraordinary week dedicated to artists and writers as activists.

When this show first exhibited at Chambers Fine Art in 2014, Ai Weiwei was still unable to leave China three years after his “conditional release” from 81 days detention from April 3 to June 22, 2011. The Chinese government returned his passport in 2015, and shortly thereafter he moved to Berlin where he is currently based. His most recent work is extraordinarily varied, much of it an in-depth reflection and investigation on the current global refugee crisis.

The eight sculptures constituting Rebar and Case owe their origin to the 8.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the Sichuan province, China on May 12, 2008. Increasingly outspoken on the political situation within China, Ai organized the Citizens’ Investigation to establish the names of the more than 5,000 schoolchildren who had been killed in shoddily constructed schools in Wenchuan district, known as tofu-dreg construction, in China. In addition to this activity, he purchased about 200 tons of twisted rebar salvaged from the destroyed buildings and used this material in various installation projects.  

Still haunted by the earthquake and its aftermath, Ai focused on single pieces of twisted rebar in Rebar and Case. Carved in marble, these faithful replicas of steel originals are housed in boxes made from huali wood, the precious material used in Chinese furniture of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Noting that he never really separates “art, architecture, design, and even curating”, Ai has observed that his boxes are simultaneously abstract sculptures and containers for delicate marble forms that are heavily laden with meaning.

In 1995 Ai Weiwei began a photo series, later titled Study of Perspective, in which he captured images of his extended middle finger pointed towards monuments, institutions and sites of cultural and political power. This gesture, repeated in a continuous pattern, is used in the wallpaper Finger which is used to cover the walls of the Hudson D. Walker Gallery at The Fine Arts Work Center. As always in Ai’s use of wallpaper as a medium, there is a marked disjunction between the decorative function of wallpaper and politically sensitive subject matter used as motif.


The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown was founded in 1968 by a group of artists, writers, and patrons, including Stanley Kunitz and Robert Motherwell, among others, who envisioned a place in Provincetown, the country’s most enduring art colony, where artists and writers could live and work together in the early phases of their careers. The founders believed that the freedom to pursue creative work within a community of peers is the best catalyst for artistic growth and has dedicated itself to this mission for almost 50 years.

Today, the Fine Arts Work Center is a renowned residency program that annually grants 7-month fellowships to 20 emerging artists and writers. Since its inception, the Work Center has awarded over 1,000 Fellowships. Fellows have gone on to number among the most accomplished artists and writers working today, winning MacArthurs, Whitings, Pollock-Krasners, Tiffanys, Prix de Romes, Guggenheims, National Book Awards, and eight Pulitzer Prizes.


Hudson D. Walker Gallery
24 Pearl Street, Provincetown, MA 02667
508.487.9960 |

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