To Be Found, which is due to be unveiled in Poland’s capital on 13 July, consists of three ditches filled with broken crockery and covered over with earth. Ai has created the work for the sixth edition of the Brodno Sculpture Park project, set up by the Polish artist Pawel Althamer in Targowek, the working-class district of Warsaw where he grew up.
Brodno Sculpture Park has played an important role in revitalising the area and engaging the local community. It was founded in 2009 with the help of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and the local authorities.
To Be Found forms a triangle, with each ditch 100 metres apart. The crockery in each pit comes from replicas of a vase found in a 14th-century temple that Ai made while working on “Ghost Gu Coming Down the Mountain”, his 2005 series with the artist Serge Spitzer. The original vase was sold at Christie’s for $27.7m in 2005—an auction record for an Asian work of art at the time.
“In reaching out to the history of this precious object, Ai was interested in the fetishisation of certain artefacts and their complex history encapsulated in the colonial logistics of robbery and appropriation,” says Sebastian Cichocki, the park’s curator. He approached Ai with the help of the Berlin-based gallery Neugerriemschneider (2.1/H7), one of the galleries that represents the artist in Europe. To encourage him to participate, Cichocki and Althamer sent Ai studio photographs and maps of the park, as well as a video of curators and locals inviting the Chinese artist to Brodno. “All I knew was that Ai was an artist I really wanted to work with, despite being separated by thousands of miles, assistants, galleries, Chinese police and various go-betweens,” Cichocki says.
The project has been overshadowed by the death of Cichocki’s 26-year-old curatorial assistant Bogna Olszewska, who worked on the commission. Her sudden death has imbued the project with a “darker layer”, Cichocki says. “The sculpture is supposed ‘to be found’ by future generations or aliens, or whoever will come after us. We will all be gone by then,” he says.
Olafur Eliasson, Susan Philipsz, Monika Sosnowska and Rirkrit Tiravanija have made pieces for the park in the past.
Meanwhile, Althamer’s work is on show at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing (until 29 August).