Ai Weiwei’s WANTED print and poster is derived from Marcel Duchamp’s WANTED poster of 1963 intended to promote his first major retrospective exhibition in that year at the Pasadena Museum of Art.  For his poster, Duchamp reproduced a work that he had made in 1923, wherein he had appropriated a preprinted humorous card to which he attached photographs of himself in profile and frontally and altered the text below.  He used this earlier work because he had lost its location and was looking for it, causing this poster to be subsequent titled WANTED WANTED

For Ai Weiwei’s print/poster, he appropriated the Duchamp image but substituted photographs of himself in profile and frontally (taken years earlier), and altered the text below to demand an end to his detention from country arrest by Chinese authorities, who continue to hold his passport and thereby prohibit his travel outside the country.  Ai Weiwei’s image, therefore, can be interpreted as a plea for his release, which is not just subtly requested, but more bluntly declared as: WANTED.
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[Francis Naumann]