Ai’s reinterpretation of a ruyi (wish fulfillment) scepter, an emblem of longevity and good fortune, recontextualizes its traditional iconography to insinuate new layers of meaning. The ruyi’s form is derived from a mushroom-shaped fungus that for more than two millennia was thought to confer immortality. Ai’s scepter riffs on this belief by making its health-granting properties anatomically specific. Composed of ceramic human organs, Ai’s scepter calls to mind not long life but humankind’s physical vulnerability.
Acquired directly from the artist in 2006 by Uli Sigg, a Swiss private collector. Donated to the M+ Museum of Visual Culture in 2012.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China," December 9, 2013–April 6, 2014.