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An audiovisual presentation using twelve monitors.

The audiovisual presentation uses twelve monitors mounted in three columns of four. Seven thousand seventy-seven photographs taken over the span of eight years rotate on the different screens. The photographs include clouds against a blue sky, a city view, and a cat looking out of a window.

Gallery Text

The malleability of what is true and what is real is at the core of conceptual artist and social activist Ai Weiwei’s work. A child of China’s brutal Cultural Revolution, he experienced firsthand the profound human cost of government-enforced social reform and the attendant campaigns to rewrite history and “reeducate” citizens through indoctrination and reprisal. In a determined act of artistic defiance, Ai established Fake Design Studio in Beijing in 2003. The name implies an intention both to perpetrate and to unmask fictions; it also signals dissent, as the Chinese pronunciation of fake is similar to the English word fuck. The artist began to exploit the documentary, archival, coercive, political, and aesthetic capacity of photography—much of it produced with smartphones—and began experimenting with ways to distribute his massive daily image production together with his written thoughts through digital social media platforms.

Created after the government shut down his blog, and drawn from its visual content, the installation 258 Fake is a choreographed meditation consisting of disassociated fragments from eight years of Ai’s social, political, and artistic life, presented through the conceptually unstable medium of photography. As he wrote on July 25, 2003, and posted to his blog on January 16, 2006: “[Photography] . . . is similar to the seemingly truthful—but actually false—state of various kinds of ‘knowledge.’ No matter whether or not we are convinced of the information that is presented to us, every bit of it is useless in allaying our doubts.”

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Ai Weiwei, Chinese (Beijing, China born 1957)
258 Fake
Audiovisual Works
Work Type
audiovisual work
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1010, Prescott Street Entrance
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Physical Descriptions

7677 photographs (2003-2011), 12 monitors
Dimensions vary with installation


Recorded Ownership History
[Galerie Urs Meile, Switzerland], sold; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2013.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Margaret Fisher Fund
© Ai Weiwei
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Publication History

  • Cate McQuaid, Contemporary art in the foreground at Harvard Art Museums, The Boston Globe (Boston, MA, November 1, 2014), ill. in online edition (color)
  • Daniel Grant, "Museum Acquisitions: Top Picks of 2014", Antiques and Fine Art Magazine (2015), XIIV, 1, pp. 128-137, p. 135
  • Suzanne Volmer, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Rebecca Horn, Sculpture, International Sculpture Center (June 2015), Vol. 34, No. 5, p. 70

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 1010 Prescott Street Entrance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Verification Level

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at