White House, 2015

Basel 2016
White House


wooden structures of a Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) residential house, paint
830.0 x 545.0 x 1030.0 (cm)
326.8 x 214.6 x 405.5 (inch)
Ai Weiwei’s White House is the 80-square-meter frame of a residential home from southern China built during the Qing Dynasty (1644– 1911). While Chinese homes from this period typically had a minimum of three bays between dougong (roof supports), the palatial expanse of White House and its ornately decorated queti (reinforcements between columns) indicate that the former occupants were a Family with significant wealth. As with Ai’s other works, this cultural-anthropological readymade embodies layered life stories and has been appended by the artist’s own imprint: a thick coating of industrial white paint covering the original wooden skeleton. Deemed no longer efficient and left to ruin, the abandoned domestic structure signals the recent modernization and industrialization that has overtaken China’s history and tradition since the Cultural Revolution of the mid-1960s and 70s. Transforming the original materials into a whitewashed domicile supported by bases cast from solid crystal glass, Ai questions our relationship to the past and the global System of values that dominates the present.