Ai Weiwei and ATX sculptures, dazzling public art in Austin

I love seeing public artsculpture, murals, earthwork, any kind! — and often drag family members out to see new works.

Last evening, I headed downtown to the Waller Creek boathouse on Lady Bird Lake to view a trippy new work by Chinese artist and human-rights advocate Ai Weiwei. Forever Bicycles, a crystalline tower of 1,254 silver bicycles, seems to radiate into space like rays of light.

According to Waller Creek Conservancy, which is sponsoring the exhibition in partnership with The Contemporary Austin:

This sculpture takes as its subject the Forever brand bicycle, once ubiquitous on the streets of Beijing. A means of not only transportation but also social mobility and a coveted luxury item when the artist was growing up in China, in contemporary times the Forever bicycle has given way to aspirations of car ownership. Given this context, the installation here imparts poignant commentary through 1,200 of these nostalgic objects assembled into a gorgeous, dizzying sculpture, whose wheels are now frozen in perpetual cycle.

A path runs through the sculpture, allowing views from inside.

Wheels and sky

Austin is a biking town, and the sculpture overlooks the popular hike-and-bike trail around Lady Bird Lake.

Forever Bicycles is on long-term loan, as well as another of Weiwei’s works, Iron Tree Trunk, which is on display at Laguna Gloria’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park.

On the way home, we stopped at the Whole Foods at 5th and Lamar Blvd. to see the colorful atx — a popular abbreviation for Austin, TX — that appeared recently on the street corner.

Sponsored by Whole Foods and created by Ion Art, the rainbow-striped sculpture is already a popular spot for selfies and sharing Austin pride.

Which is exactly what we did.

Public art adds beauty, joy, wonder, and a feeling of creativity to our public places, and maybe even makes you think. I appreciate individuals, businesses, arts organizations, and cities that sponsor it.

Fellow Austinites, do you know of any other interesting public artworks that I should go visit this summer? And if anyone’s looking for cool works to go visit, here’s a link to public art I’ve written about in Austin and elsewhere.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

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20 Responses

  1. These are great! The first one makes my eyes cross if I look at a couple of those pictures too long. ha… The ATX is really cool. Love the colors.

  2. Saurs says:

    Photographs of Forever Bicycles — which is just ingenuously designed — seem to consistently hurt my eyes and trigger a migraine (and I’m not especially prone to them). For people who’ve viewed it at all angles in person, does it have same effect in ‘real life?’

  3. ks says:

    Here in Napa public art installations has been a growing movement that echos the revitalization of our downtown. We are obviously a much smaller city than Austin but I’m encouraged by the amount of public art that has been put in place here -it really enriches the experience of visiting our town.

  4. Kris P says:

    I’d love to see LA sponsor more public art exhibits as Austin’s done!

  5. Mark and Gaz says:

    They look fun! And great to see Forever Bicycles again, saw it in person when it was on display at ‘The Gherkin’ building in central London.

  6. hb says:

    That’s a striking sculpture. Too bad China gave up bicycles–a much healthier way of life.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      And yet who can blame them? We’re such a car-loving culture ourselves. It IS hard to imagine how our planet will handle all those extra cars though, unless we start making them much less polluting. —Pam

  7. Leigh says:

    Just back from Beijing and Changsha and wanted to let you know that bikes are alive and well there. In fact, there are at least 3 companies doing bike-share businesses. It was pretty amazing to see!

  8. I’m with you Pam, I love seeing interesting works of art around town, especially those that make a bold statement. I’ll have to remember to find my way to the ATX sign while flinging in Austin.

  9. Peter/Outlaw says:

    These are really cool. Loved “Iron Tree Trunk” as well. Wherever did you find such cute models to pose in ATX?

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