Nothing Lasts… “Forever Bicycles” Sculpture Departs Austin, Texas

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist of the Excessivist movement who is a very, very big deal in the art world. Huge, you might even say. For the last five years, Austin, Texas has been proud home of his incredible piece of 1,254 gleaming steel bicycles called “Forever Bicycles.” I went down to bid it farewell before it was dissassembled. Where it goes, only he knows. Here are some of my photos and information about this amazeballs installation.

A Commentary on Chinese Society

Forever Bicycles by Ai Weiwei

Up until recently, I had only just enjoyed the spectacle and optical illusion that the sculpture provided. But the fact that Forever Bicycles is a brand name was the first fact I learned while investigating this piece. Bikes were ubiquitous in China as Mr. Weiwei grew up, his work is a comment on several things, including how nowadays bikes are not as popular. In fact, they are more of a luxury. While of course still used by many, times they are a-changing. Mr..Weiwei has a reputation for being political — he’s been critical of China’s human rights record and lack of democracy — and this work is too, in its own way. The artist was detained for 81 days for “economic crimes” and finally allowed to leave China in 2015. He now resides in Berlin, Germany and travels worldwide.

PUN ALERT in 3… 2… 1: I don’t need to reinvent the wheel, though! You can learn a lot more at this link from Public Delivery. Be sure to scroll to the bottom to see the links to two videos: one is the author briefly discussing the sculpture, and the other is a cool time lapse of the installation in Toronto, Canada. It’s a beautiful illustration of just how much work goes into realizing the artist’s vision. And residents and tourists alike ate it up; every time I was there, people were always stopping to admire the work and to take photographs. For good reason, up close, it’s stunning!

All the Bikes! Up Close and Personal

Thanks to a mistake on the Waller Creek Conservancy website, a fence was put up around it a day earlier than advertised. But it was still great to view. The illusion created by staggering the placement of the bikes is truly mesmerizing. You get the idea when it is captured by photographs, but it’s far better in person in three dimensional space. That and the sheer size of the piece is just very impressive. Before the fence went up, you could walk right under it. But I still got some nice pictures. See for yourself.

In fact, I did just go a few nights prior, and got these shots under a full moon. The picture on the right is taken lying down and looking up through the wheels. It’s not nearly as nice as in the full sunlight but interesting nonetheless. It was odd they didn’t have it illuminated for night viewing, though.

There’s not much more to say about the topic, except that we’ll miss this famtastic cultural attraction. I hope you’ve seen it or get a chance to if it’s reinstalled elsewhere. Meanwhile, enjoy it vicariously. This might inspire you to attempt to create a monolithic art project.  It would be easier to just go ride a bicycle!

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