Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

What is the new sculpture on Abu Dhabi's Corniche? Ai Weiwei's 'Forever Bicycles' arrives in the UAE

The new addition to the Abu Dhabi waterfront will be in place for several months

Have you been passing by Abu Dhabi's Corniche in the last few days and wondering what that giant amalgamation of bicycles is that seems to have just cropped up overnight?

Well, we have the answer: it's a new sculpture from renowned artist Ai Weiwei that has made Abu Dhabi its temporary home.

Created with hundreds of bicycles, the work is intended to look blurry, as if its moving, due to how the bicycles have been positioned.

It's also well travelled – having been installed in other major centres for set periods of time, such as Austin, Texas, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Bicycles have long featured in Ai's installations – with the intention to reflect the huge role that bicycles play in Chinese society.

The first time Ai used bicycles in a sculpture was in Very Yao in 2008, but as the years have passed, his visions have grown grander. Recent iterations of his bicycle- themed work have comprised more than 1,000 bikes. He's previously said that the increase in size of his works is also a statement, a comment on China's mass production and manufacturing industry.

The installation has arrived in Abu Dhabi as part of the For Abu Dhabi initiative by the Department of Municipal Affairs and Transport, which provides about Dh8 billion in grants for improvements such as park and waterfront restorations, public art commissions and other improvements in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra. The initiative is part of the Ghadan 21 programme that aims to increase investment and tourism in Abu Dhabi by 2021.

Forever Bicycles will remain on the Corniche for at least several months.

Ai is one of China's most established artists, but also one of the state’s biggest critics. He was arrested in 2011, which sparked outrage in the art world. Ai spent years under house arrest, yet still managed to organise exhibitions around the world.

In 2015, his passport was returned to him by China’s authorities, after which he left the country to live in self-imposed exile in Germany.

However in August last year, Ai announced he was leaving Germany, criticising the country for what he sees as intolerance for opposing views. Today, Ai continues to make work, addressing issues such as the global refugee crisis and climate change.

Updated: February 16, 2020 08:27 PM

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