Typical of his sculptural works, Ai Weiwei's Lantern engages with recognizable Chinese forms and its history of craftsmanship. Here, the familiar red paper lantern is created from marble mined from a former Imperial quarry near Beijing. The resulting work speaks to the recurring themes in Ai's practice: tradition and commodification, government censorship, and freedom of speech.
A staunch critic of the Chinese government, Ai was placed under house arrest in late 2010, with surveillance cameras placed outside his home and studio in Beijing to monitor his movements. In response, the ever-defiant artist festooned these cameras with red paper lanterns. Traditionally associated with festivals, this exquisitely carved form appears to blow in the wind despite its marble girth, as if free from the oppression of gravity.