Ai Weiwei’s “wearable art” collection features silk scarves and laser-cut bags embedded with activist imagery

Inspired by the artist’s Papercut Portfolio, the items combine juxtapose traditional craftsmanship – a common theme in his work – with defiant subjects.

17 November 2020

Ai Weiwei has designed a range of “wearable art” for Taschen, specifically a range of silk scarves and laser cut bags adorned with motifs from his Papercut Portfolio. Paying tribute to the traditional Chinese art of papercutting as a storytelling medium, which goes back 2,000 years, the artworks apply the intricate technique to imagery of various themes common in the artist’s work – activism, dissidence and heritage. The Cats and Dogs bag and scarf, for example, harks back to his work in the 90s when he returned to Beijing from New York and “found his artistic identity”; the detailed motif depicts his infamous Coca-Cola Vase – traditional vases emblazoned with the Coke logo – and a hand holding a middle finger up to the Forbidden City.

The collection also includes the black-and-white Citizens’ Investigation scarf, which explores the somber aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and his campaign to find out why so many victims were school children. Another scarf titled Haircut portrays his involvement in documenta XII in Kassel 2007, when he made it possible for 1,001 Chinese compatriots to travel to the German city. The scarves are handwoven and hand-silkscreened in silk, measuring 90x90cm and retailing for £250. The range also features the Zodiac bag, his interpretation of the Chinese zodiac cast in bronze and gold according to historical models, which were looted from Beijing’s Old Summer Palace by British and French troops during the Second Opium War in 1860. The bags are made from PVC with a transparent inlay, and are retailing for £400.

Papercut Portfolio was a large-format book also created exclusively for Taschen (and compared with its £35,000 price tag, makes the wearable version appear quite the bargain) which saw Weiwei reflect on his life and work in eight original papercut pieces.

GalleryAi Weiwei: Papercut Portfolio scarves and bags (© Taschen, 2020)

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Ai Weiwei: Papercut Portfolio scarves and bags (© Taschen, 2020)

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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