After three years of trekking back and forth to Ai Weiwei’s studio in Beijing, armed with expensive bottles of Italian red wine, gallerist Elisabetta Cipriani finally persuaded the artist to work with her. It was not easy; at first he wasn’t keen, dealing as he does with weightier themes, but Cipriani’s charm, and her roster of artist collaborators, among them Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Carlos Cruz-Diez and Giorgio Vigna, persuaded him.
Last week, the results of the pair’s efforts went on show at the Mayfair gallery that Cipriani founded six years ago. ‘Rebar in Gold’ consists of two 24 carat gold strips, each 20cm and 60 cm long that are soft enough to be moulded into a bracelet by the wearer. (With his bear-like grip, Weiwei manipulated Cipriani‘s own piece with ease, though less statuesque wearers may struggle).
Engraved with indents and markings, each gold strip is designed to reference the twisted steel rods that appear in his seminal work, Straight, currently on show at the Royal Academy. In it, Weiwei places 200 tonnes of contorted steel rebar, salvaged from the scene of the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan province in 2008, on the floor. The work commemorates the 70,000 people who perished largely due to the poor construction techniques in the region.
Since 2009, Cipriani, a former curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, has worked with 17 artists to make limited edition jewellery pieces. ‘I am thankful to Ai for choosing Straight as the basis of the project. Although simple in appearance, the bracelets have a strong and meaningful concept, which to me is what an artist’s 'jewel' should have,’ says Cipriani.
Weiwei took charge of everything from sourcing the gold, right down to the design of the elegant wooden and glass cabinets in which the pieces are displayed. ‘He put a lot of energy into this project,’ says Cipriani, ‘and although I did approach him, ultimately, I believe, he chose me.’
23 Heddon Street
Receive our daily digest of inspiration, escapism and design stories from around the world direct to your inbox
Emma O'Kelly is a contributing editor at Wallpaper*. She joined the magazine on issue 4 as news editor and since since then has worked in full and part time roles across many editorial departments. She is a freelance journalist based in London and works for a range of titles from Condé Nast Traveller to The Telegraph. She is currently working on a book about Scandinavian sauna culture and is renovating a mid century house in the Italian Lakes.
BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA brings Esther Mahlangu’s art to life at Frieze LA
BMW’s Art Car Project has rarely impacted on the company’s everyday business of building cars. With the BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA, could all that be about to change?
By Jonathan Bell Published
This Walter S White house in Indio is given a new lease of life
This Walter S White house in Indio, California, has been redesigned for the 21st century by Sean Gaston
By Hadani Ditmars Published
The Arts Foundation Futures Awards 2024 celebrate UK’s rising creatives
Here are The Arts Foundation Futures Awards 2024 winners, spanning theatre writing, jazz composition and regenerative design
By Tianna Williams Published
Fendi's golden gadgets are glamorous stocking fillers
The Roman house has teamed up with London accessories label Chaos on a range of tech jewellery accessories, including Air Pod holders and iPhone cases
By Laura Hawkins Last updated
Rashid Johnson unveils gender-fluid jewellery collection
Artist Rashid Johnson collaborates with Lizworks on a fine jewellery collection featuring artworks from his Anxious Men series. This article is a preview from Wallpaper's October 2020 issue, on newsstands from 17 September
By Tilly Macalister-Smith Last updated
Scarf wit: art lovers can put their neck on the line for their favourite museums
By Rosa Bertoli Last updated
Victoria Beckham and Emily Young piece together fragmentary jewels
By Laura Hawkins Published
Art jewellery collection Gems and Ladders launches in London
By Elly Parsons Last updated
Light armour: Boucheron’s Claire Choisne turns cape crusader
By Caragh McKay Last updated
Playing tag: Kongo’s riot of colour for Richard Mille
By Ken Kessler Last updated
Clip service: hair clasps are the mane attraction of contemporary jewellery
By Katrina Israel Last updated