Celebrating Contemporary: Ai Weiwei's Ton of Tea

  • 1 September 2011

This month we are celebrating international contemporary art and are inviting you to vote for your favourite Art Funded contemporary masterpiece...

A Ton of Tea, Ai Weiwei, 2011 Ai Weiwei, courtesy Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne

A Ton of Tea, Ai Weiwei, 2011

This September we’re celebrating contemporary art and apart from loads of exciting content throughout the month, we're inviting you to vote for your favourite Art Funded contemporary masterpiece, by voting you'll also be in with a chance to win Phaidon's beautiful new art book The Art Museum worth £125.

Each day we'll be focusing on one of the twenty works you can choose from, and what better way than to start with Ai Weiwei's Ton of Tea?

The work

Ai Weiwei's sculpture is a meter square cube of compressed and deeply aromatic tea which reflects the artist's aesthetic and political concerns, making reference to globalization and China’s burgeoning population.

The tea leaves have been dried and compressed into a block form, a traditional means of preserving and transporting tea. A Ton of Tea has clear links with Bristol's designated collections of Chinese glass and ceramics, but it also can be used to illuminate international trade linking to Bristol’s history as a mercantile port.

The work will be on display at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery in the near future.

The artist

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist mainly concerned with socio-political issues and has been highly critical of the Chinese government's position on democracy and human rights. The artist was detained by Chinese authorities for three months earlier this year.

Ai is widely know for his collaboration with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron as the artistic consultant on the 'Birds Nest' stadium in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics and his recent work in the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, Sunflower Seeds in 2010. The work comprised of one hundred million porcelain seeds scattered on the floor of the hall.

A political activist with a talent for sculpture, architecture, film and photography, Ai Weiwei is a multi-skilled and truly international artist.

Did you know?

For the piece Ton of Tea, Ai has chosen the Pur Er blend of tea as it is drunk by ordinary Chinese citizens across the country.

VOTE for Ai Weiwei's Ton of Tea