Blog / Empty chair, full meaning


By Wendy

The Nasher Museum has acquired a beautiful sculpture of a chair, carved from a single block of marble, by Chinese conceptual artist and social activist Ai Weiwei.

“The empty chair has always been a profound metaphor for Ai Weiwei,” columnist Carol Vogel writes in her weekly column, Inside Art, in today’s New York Times.

Vogel goes on to describe this important addition to the Nasher Museum’s permanent collection:
“Kim Rorschach, the museum’s director, said she had long had an interest in contemporary Chinese art and was familiar with Mr. Ai’s series of marble chairs. Colleagues at the museum, she said, had gone to Documenta XII, an exhibition held in Kassel, Germany, four years ago, that featured an Ai Weiwei installation called ‘Fairytale.’ The installation involved 1,001 Ming and Qing Dynasty chairs placed in one of Documenta’s largest exhibition sites, and 1,001 Chinese volunteers signed up through the artist’s blog to travel to Germany to become part of the project by sitting on the chairs.”

The 200-pound “Marble Chair” is on view now in the Nasher Museum’s permanent collection gallery.
Read the rest of Vogel’s column here.

The sculpture anchors more than 50 recent gifts and purchases of art to bolster the collection.

The Nasher Museum’s national board of advisors recently approved the acquisitions, including photography, works on paper, paintings, sculpture and video.

Another important addition to the collection is a bequest of A. Courtney Shives, Jr., T’66, of 20 black-and-white prints by Ansel Adams, including some of his best-known photographs depicting the American Western landscape.

Other contemporary highlights include a 2011 painting by North Carolina artist Beverly McIver; a 2010 video by Iraqi artist Ali Assaf conceived for the Iraq pavilion in the 54th Venice Biennale; Japanese artist Taiyo Kimura’s video, which is part of the Nasher Museum’s traveling exhibition, “The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl”; a recent work on paper by Robert A. Pruitt called “Flux”; and a collection of 30 laser prints and offset lithographs by the Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous artist collective whose work is part of “The Deconstructive Impulse,” on view through Dec. 31.

Another standout is a 2011 mixed-media work by Jamaican artist Nari Ward called “Album,” made of basketball trading cards in which the players have been blacked out, leaving only the balls on each card exposed, floating like celestial orange stars in the night sky. The artist uses basketball trading cards to draw the connection between sports, entertainment and African American culture.

Also of note is an early 17th-century oil painting attributed to a Spanish old master whose paintings were included the Nasher Museum’s 2008 blockbuster exhibition “El Greco to Velazquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III.” The painting, “The Virgin Mary Contemplating Instruments of the Passion,” is a newly discovered, unpublished work. Sarah Schroth, the Nasher Museum’s senior curator, has attributed the painting to Vicente Carducho, who was appointed painter to King Philip III of Spain in 1609.

Visitors will also discover a 1944 sculpture cast in bronze in 1954 by Max Ernst, “The King Playing with the Queen,” on loan from the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas.

IMAGE: Ai Weiwei, Marble Chair, 2008. Marble, 47 x 22 x 18 inches. Edition unique. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Purchase with funds provided by the Estate of Wallace Fowlie. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery, London. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.

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