London, England —(Map)
Many people are familiar with Claude Monet’s famous oil paintings of water lilies. Now the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has reworked Monet’s idea into a massive new artwork made from a surprising material: Lego bricks.
Ai Weiwei is the son of a famous Chinese poet. The Chinese government disagreed with the views of Mr. Ai’s father, and sent him to live in northwest China as a punishment. As a result, Mr. Ai grew up in difficult conditions. He later had other problems with the Chinese government and now lives outside of China.
Mr. Ai has created many different kinds of art, including working with photos and videos. In much of his work, he has brought attention to situations where people are being treated poorly.
As an artist, Mr. Ai often uses unusual materials. In one show, he used twisted iron collected after an earthquake. In another, he used 100 million painted pottery sunflower seeds. One sculpture of his combines over 1,000 bicycles.
Now Mr. Ai has used Legos to recreate one of the world’s most famous paintings.
Claude Monet was a famous French artist who painted hundreds of pictures of the water lilies in his garden. One of the most famous is called Water Lilies 1914-26. Monet worked on it from 1914 to 1926. It’s a huge painting, made of three separate panels. Together, the panels are nearly 42 feet (12.7 meters) long.
Mr. Ai’s version of Monet’s painting is on display at the Design Museum in London, from April 7 to July 30. It’s called Water Lilies #1. In the artwork, Mr. Ai recreates much of Monet’s original painting. But instead of adding colors with brushes, Mr. Ai uses 22 different colors of Lego blocks.
The artwork is massive. It’s around 49 feet (15 meters) long and covers a whole wall of the museum. It’s Mr. Ai’s largest Lego artwork ever. In all, it contains about 650,000 Lego bricks.
Justin McGuirk, who works at the Design Museum, says the Legos remind people of the digital world and the way art is often seen and shared these days – over the internet.
Though Mr. Ai used Water Lilies as a starting point, he has made important changes to give it his own touch. For one thing, the colors are stronger. There is also a dark doorway on the right side of the piece. This door represents the underground hiding place where Mr. Ai and his father lived when they were forced to leave their home in China in the 1960s.
“Our world is complex,” says Mr. Ai, and the future is hard to predict. Because of this, he says it’s important for people to find their own way of talking about their experiences.
The Design Museum will show several other artworks by Mr. Ai, including one called Untitled (Lego Incident). Mr. Ai began using Legos in some of his works in 2014. For a while, the Lego company refused to sell him bricks. As a result, lots of people donated Lego bricks to Mr. Ai. Those donated Legos are now part of the Lego Incident.
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