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It's Amazing What You Can Do With 3,144 Bicycles

It's Amazing What You Can Do With 3,144 Bicycles - 4.0 out of 5 based on 2 votes
Forever Bicycles Forever Bicycles Photo: paul bica via Flickr

That's how many bikes it took world famous Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei to create "Forever Bicycles," this incredible art installation outdoors at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Canada.

This tremendous sculpture was the centerpiece of Nuit Blanche, an annual art exhibition sponsored by Scotiabank in Toronto. The 2013 exhibit featured more than 60 independent art projects and three curated shows -- but the piece that stole all the attention was the three-dimensional, three-story tall labyrinth made of bicycles.

Bicycles are the usual means of transportation in China. And to create this monument to China's most popular bicycle, (translated from Chinese, the brand name "Yong Jiu" literally means "Forever Bicycles") the identical bikes had to travel across the Pacific Ocean in thousands of special shipping boxes.

Ai Weiweis Conceptual Art

Ai Weiwei's conceptual art installation                                                                Photo: Dan Perl

 

The tremendous size of Forever Bicycles made it a building to experience, as well as a piece of art to view. Visitors to Nuit Blanche were able to walk around and through the installation, enjoying its detailed geometrics from up close. At night Forever Bicycles was illuminated by colored light to create a lovely, shimmering effect.

So what does it mean? The changing appearance of the bicycles reflects the changing nature of modern society. The sheer number of bikes and the way they bunch together to make a harmonious whole could be an idealistic vision of our world's overpopulated future. It's a unique take on a very familiar object.

Forever Bicycles had its debut in 2011 at the Taipei Art Museum. That version, though, was much smaller. For Nuit Blanche, Ai Weiwei created a truly massive masterpiece -- one that wowed the crowds as well as the critics.

Forever Bicycles

Forever Bicycles                                                                                               Photo: paul bica

 

This stunning piece of ephermeral architecture was on display for just a few weeks, from October 7 to October 27 in 2013. So if you haven't seen it in person, all that's left to admire are photos and this super cool video that shows how it was built. It seems like nothing lasts forever -- not even Forever Bicycles.

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