A photographic self-portrait in triptych from 1995 shows Ai deliberately breaking a Han urn. A print 136 x 109 cm per element made in 2004 was sold for £ 760K including premium by Sotheby's on February 10, 2016. The antique wares participate again in his political message when he paints them in bright colors that cancel their original features.
Ai is an architect. He makes tables that are impossible to use, either because the legs are not parallel or because the top is obstructed by an oblique beam. This phase in Ai's career predates his international fame obtained for his loud speaking participation in the Olympic Stadium in Beijing and in the relief operations after the Sichuan earthquake.
An example of a Map of China clearly demonstrates the similarity of inspiration of this series with his three leg tables. Realized in 2004 or shortly earlier, it has a 51 x 55 cm top over an extravagant pattern of 3.80 m high legs. This artwork was sold for HK $ 9M including premium by Sotheby's on April 5, 2014.
Ai's Maps of China are made in fragments of ironwood also named tieli recovered in the ruins of temples destroyed by the Cultural Revolution. The elements are assembled by a traditional Chinese technique of nail-less carpentry as a jigsaw whose external border shapes the Chinese map. The size of the top and the height of the legs are variable.
A Map of China 80 x 160 x 160 cm dated 2006 is estimated £ 1M for sale by Sotheby's in London on June 28, lot 29.
Ai continued to produce pieces from that model with the same woods from the temples. The largest, realized in 2008, is 4 meter long and weighs 635 kg. A Map of China 124 x 100 x 104 cm made in 2009 was sold for $ 2.5 million including premium by Christie's on May 11, 2016.