Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist, who is a keen pro-democracy activist, he is also active in sculpture, installation, architecture, curating, photography, film, and social, political and cultural.
He was outspoken of his critic over China’s human rights violations. The Beijing-born artist had landed in government custody back in 2011 and endured years of surveillance afterward. But now he’s turning his critical eye toward the West, as tensions escalate between the US, Canada, and China.
The Chinese artist saw an opportunity from a factory that was closing down, the 104-year-old factory in Croydon, A Brown & Co Buttons, is shutting down after a slump in sales, according to the BBC. Stuart Brown, the owner of the family-run company, was afraid that the “hundreds of thousands” of unsold buttons in the warehouse, which could have fetched around £1.5 million ($1.9 million), would have to be thrown out.
The artist is in the market for buttons tons of them. The exiled Chinese artist used social media to express his interest in taking on a 30-ton hoard of buttons being offered by a factory that is closing down in South London. Better known for his vast works in ceramics, Lego, inflatable rubber, Ai’s surprise interest in buttons could mean he is becoming a textile artist.
The factory’s fear was quelled after a sympathetic Twitter user, Amy Clare Tasker, made an online appeal on behalf of the company last week. who tweeted: “costume designers: I’ve been asked to share this call to save buttons from landfill,” explaining that the factory needs to offload the 30 tons of plastic, metal, glass, pearl, and olive wood buttons, as well as wooden toggles.
"Can I keep them all?” Commented at the request of the artistic director Amy Clare Tasker, which has echoed the message of Brown & Co Buttons so that the immense stock could be recycled and not become garbage.
As it was explained by the British head The Independent, the company is aware of Ai Weiwei's request. However, the artist is not the only one who has responded to the claim and according to Sarah Janalli, employee of Brown & Co, those responsible for the announcement have been "flooded" and very "surprised" by all the answers they have received.
The company has not yet decided what it will do with the 30 tons of buttons and if they will finally offer them to the artist. What the company has confirmed is that "no button will remain in the dump."
Since then, imaginations and suggestions have been running wild as to what the artist might have planned for the eclectic collection. Some theories include creating a similar work to his 2010 Sunflower Seeds,
Tasker’s tweet has been shared 5,219 times so far. Suggestions for the buttons to go to schools to be used in art classes and other crafts have poured in, as well as requests from button aficionados around the globe. Another artist, Delaine Derry Green, who uses buttons in her pattern-based artworks, also expressed an interest in the unwanted haberdashery.