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AI WEIWEI’S MIDDLE FINGER: what’s your perspective?

Ai Weiwei is one of the most prominent and controversial artists of our time, known for his

unapologetic and provocative works that often challenge authority and expose social injustice.

Throughout his career, he has used his art to challenge established power structures. These days

he has launched a new artistic and politically charged project which refers to his Study of

Perspective series, created between 1995 and 2017.

Spanning over 20 years, Study of Perspective had been a powerful critique of established power

structures and authority. Each photograph in the series features Ai Weiwei standing with his back

to the camera, in front of a famous landmark or monument. He then lifts his arm and extends his

middle finger, directly at the monument. The first photograph in the series was taken in 1995 in

front of Tiananmen Square, the site of the 1989 student protests in which the artist played an

active role. The gesture in this photograph was a direct challenge to the Chinese government,

which had brutally suppressed the protests and maintained tight control over the country's

political and social life.

Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective - Tiananmen Square, 1995

Over the years, Ai Weiwei expanded the series to include other landmarks and symbols of

authority around the world, including the White House, the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, and the

Berlin Wall, among many others. The series is not just a critique of authority, but also a celebration

of individuality and self-expression. By flipping his middle finger, Ai Weiwei asserted his own

agency and independence, refusing to be silenced or suppressed. He encouraged others to do the

same, to challenge authority and express themselves freely.

His most recent shot, from 2017, shows his middle finger in the foreground of Trump Tower in

New York City.

Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective - Trump Tower, 2017

The following year, the artist even created a series of 100 Murano glass casts of his middle finger,

inviting collectors to stage their own critiques with his defiant motif.

However, the cost of these hand-sized sculptures cannot go unnoticed and arouse a critical

concern. Is charging $11,000 for a reproduction of one's middle finger really an action of socio-

political and economic critique, or does it instead show an adherence to the capitalistic system to

which art belongs? For sure, it was not one of the most radical and clean operations the artist has


Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective in Glass (Set of 6), 2018-2019

Today, his middle finger come back again digitally in order to be shared by everyone, keeping up with the times and leveraging the potential of the web and social media.

Inspired by his own Study of Perspective series Ai Weiwei, in collaboration with Avant Arte, has

developed a platform that offers anyone the opportunity to choose a target to give the middle

finger to.

The platform allows users to select a place through Google Maps, position the artist's middle

finger in front of the chosen target, virtually take a photo and then share it on social networks,

using the hashtag #studyofperspective. The photos will also be saved anonymously and viewable

on Avant Arte's Middle Finger platform, which has already collected a large number of shots.

More effective than the luxury glass-sculptures, this new project gives everyone the chance to

send a message toward social responsibility and the importance of standing for our own values,

questioning our adherence and acceptance towards governments, institutions and establishments.

Although the use of the middle finger as a symbol of protest is certainly not innovative or

pioneering, think also of Cattelan's monumental sculpture L.O.V.E, the one proposed by Ai Weiwei

with Avant art is certainly a project with a great viral potential.

In fact, even though the profiles of major museums and institutions have not yet joined,

individuals from every continent have begun to post their personal F**k off, giving the people of

IG a chance to learn about the personal and collective fights around the world. At the moment,

the viral sharing has not yet taken off, but we have saved for you some interesting posts.

Clio Art Fair decided to speak its mind and launch its own provocative message against the Art

Market Manipulations, the Elite at the Biennial Opening, the Next Auction Market Record, the Blue

Chips, the Fundraising for Museums, the Art Fairs… Yes, the Art Fairs, too.

From the art world to politics, the middle finger has been raised also against the 26th president of

Brazil Castelo Branco and his dictatorial government, generating a debate in the comments under

the post.

Other posts see the f**off gesture in front of the Square of San Marco in Venice or the Piazza

Affari in Milan, a symbol of Italian economic power.

So, what Ai Weiwei has achieved, is inviting everyone to share their own perspective on power,

raising their middle fingers against it.

“We often forget that we have a middle finger. Or even if we know we have a middle finger, we misuse it. I think it's good to remember that this part of your body can point to something — an institution, or someone that resembles a power — to let them know, and let yourself know, that you exist.”

And you? What’s your perspective?


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