The Making of Ai Weiwei’s ‘Tyger’ for WWF’s Tomorrrow’s Tigers

The Making of Ai Weiwei’s ‘Tyger’ for WWF’s Tomorrrow’s Tigers

Once again, we are privileged to be part of WWF’s major fundraising campaign Tomorrow’s Tigers, devised by Art Wise curators and previewed at Sotheby’s. As part of this year’s incredible line up of artists (including Anish Kapoor, Gary Hume and Peter Doig), we were extremely happy to be making a one-of-a-kind art rug by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, produced in association with Turquoise Mountain and their craftspeople in Afghanistan. Turquoise Mountain was founded in 2006 by His Majesty King Charles III to revive historic areas and traditional crafts, to provide jobs, skills and a renewed sense of pride.

At the beginning of the 20th century, experts believe there may have been 100,000 tigers in the wild. Today, the population has shrunk around 95%, the shocking legacy of threats including rampant poaching and habitat loss. WWF has been at the forefront of changing this pattern, and in 2016, tiger numbers increased for the first time in conservation history. The current estimate is 4,500 wild tigers. Tomorrow’s Tigers 2022 coincides with this year’s Lunar Year of the Tiger, and the culmination of the global TX2 commitments to double wild tiger numbers.

Ai Weiwei is extremely knowledgable about the Tibetan tiger rugs, as we found out when we met to discuss the production process. He was very generous with his time. Here’s how we worked through the process on Ai’s ‘Tyger’ art rug…

First the artist shares the artwork with Christopher Farr and we meet to discuss the weave and colours to make the rug. Delineating each knot to give strong idea of how the finished rug will look.

The yarn is spun and dyed using natural pigments and then hand knotted. Two weavers are working on the loom until it is complete. The method uses a vertical loom. A method that has remained unchanged or centuries. Once complete, the pile is clipped until it is even to give definition.

Then the rug is washed several times and left to dry out in the sun. The ends are finished.

The rug is them packed and shipped to London. Finally, the artist checks and approves the final rug. And the signed label is attached.

‘Protection of endangered animals is a kind of self-love’ says Ai, as told to the FT HTSI’s Beatrice Hodgkin ‘without which we would all be living in a savage land.’

Ai Weiwei, photographed by Thierry Bakl for Artwise Tomorrow's Tigers

To help towards the campaign to double wild tigers, browse the limited edition artworks for sale and see more on this project on Read more on FT HTSI Wisely, Ai Weiwei interviewed by Beatrice Hodgkin.

Portrait photography of Ai Wei Wei by Thierry Bal.

Making photography courtesy of Turquoise Mountain.

The Making of Ai Weiwei’s ‘Tyger’ for WWF’s Tomorrrow’s Tigers