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650,000 bricks for the water lilies...

As part of its new exhibition “Ai Weiwei: Giving Meaning”, the Design Museum of London unveils from April 7 to July 30, 2023 a new major work by the famous world artist Ai Weiwei.

Built entirely in Lego, it is a freely inspired reconstruction of one of Claude Monet's most famous paintings.

Entitled Water Lilies #1, it measures more than 15 m long, it occupies an entire wall of the museum gallery and it is made up of nearly 650,000 bricks in 22 colors.

Ai Weiwei. Water Lilies #1. © Ela Bialkowska/OKNO studio. © Imagecourtesy of the artist and Galleria Continua
Ai Weiwei. Water Lilies #1. © Ela Bialkowska/OKNO studio. © Image courtesy of the artist and Galleria Continua

In the original painting, Claude Monet represents the water lilies in the pond of the gardens of his house in Giverny in Normandy. This theme became world famous for its depiction of the tranquil beauty of nature which Claude Monet himself had idealized by partially drifting the course of the nearby Epte.

The decorations made by the painter in commemoration of the victory of France in 1918 have been exhibited since 1927 at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris. Monet painted a total of more than 250 paintings representing water lilies.

Claude Monet Soleil couchant Entre 1914 et 1926© Musée de l'Orangerie, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Claude Monet Soleil couchant Entre 1914 et 1926 © Musée de l'Orangerie, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Water Lilies #1. Détail.© Ela Bialkowska/OKNO studio. © Image courtesy of the artist and Galleria Continua
Water Lilies #1. Détail.© Ela Bialkowska/OKNO studio. © Image courtesy of the artist and Galleria Continua

By recreating this famous scene, Ai Weiwei challenges our ideas of reality and beauty. The use of Lego bricks erases the painter's brushstrokes in favor of a depersonalized language of industrial parts and colors. These pixel-like blocks suggest the contemporary digital technologies that are at the heart of modern life, in reference to how art is often disseminated in the contemporary world.


Water Lilies #1. Détail.© Ela Bialkowska/OKNO studio. © Image courtesy of the artist and Galleria Continua
Water Lilies #1. Détail.© Ela Bialkowska/OKNO studio. © Image courtesy of the artist and Galleria Continua




Justin McGuirk, Chief Curator at the Design Museum and curator of the exhibition said, "Many of the works in this exhibition capture the destruction of urban development in China over the past two decades. With Water Lilies#1, Ai Weiwei presents a another vision – a garden paradise... It is a monumental, complex and powerful work and we are proud to be the first museum to show it”.



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