Recently, Andy meets Warhol had the chance of visiting Berlin for a unique project between Ai Weiwei and DIY-brand HORNBACH called “Safety Jackets Zipped the Other Way”. The presentation of this work took place in the Chinese artist’s Berlin studio.


Ai Weiwei was invited by DIY-brand HORNBACH to create an artwork using hardware store materials in their own home. “Safety Jackets Zipped the Other Way” is made out of several orange safety jackets, usually worn by construction workers. With the usage of aluminium pipes or wall hocks and the guidance of a building instruction booklet, these jackets can be formed into an Ai Weiwei sculpture. The accompanying publication also includes a statement by Ai Weiwei and more background information on the project.

Ai Weiwei in front of “Safety Jackets Zipped the Other Way”. Photo: Andy Hermann

” Everyone can be an artist, or has the opportunity to create art.” 


-Ai Weiwei


What advice could you give to young artists, or to young creatives just starting out? In the beginning of their career.

Ai Weiwei: There is no such thing as a beginning of a career. If anybody wants to start his career, it’s already too late. I think we are born as artists, it’s only about consciousness, we’re fully conscious about it or not conscious about it. And also my work is to regenerate this feeling of consciousness.

When did you start creating your first artworks?

Ai Weiwei: I don’t really know, I only know when I started naming them. In the 80s, when I was in art school. It’s these kind of works, which after you make them, you bring home and throw away.

What’s the definition of home to you?

Ai Weiwei: I don’t know, I never had a home. I was always being pushed as a dissident or some kind of refugee, and I never settled.

As, I understood you moved now to the UK. Are you still going to keep the studio here. Why you want to relocate?

Ai Weiwei: This is my studio, my property, but if they push could me hard enough, I will have to leave, who knows.

Can an artist also be an activist?

An artist has to be an activist. If it’s not activist, it’s decorator. Then you cannot call it an artist.

Meeting Ai Weiwei; Photo: Inna Schill
Meeting Ai Weiwei; Photo: Inna Schill

” We have to be conscious. Art comes from a strong emotion, from courage, from a passion to find out who we are. To find out who we are is the core value of being artist.” 


-Ai Weiwei


The team behind Ai Weiwei & HORNBACH is Michelle Nicol and Rudolf Schürmann from Neutral Zürich, a communications, identity and thought leadership agency with several pioneering projects combining architecture, art, design and science with brands and institutions. Andy meets Warhol briefly chatted to co-founder Rudolf Schürmann about how this new project came about.

How did this collaboration come about?

Rudolf Schürmann: In Miami the idea came to my mind, to bring museum level art to everybody. I thought it would be great to include the public in the process of making the artwork, that they construct the artwork themselves. Then we thought, who could be a suitable partner: we considered different companies, mainly in the change management area, and then we thought that a hardware store could be cool.

What people do you aim to target with this project and how did you approach HORNBACH?

Rudolf Schürmann: Many people often think that art is elitist, but that’s not the reality. The aim is not only to address the usual people you meet at a vernissage or museum, but also those people who don’t necessarily have a connection or affinity to art. We noted that the typical HORNBACH target group consists of the white, sweaty male, and the aim here was to break this stereotype. We contacted the company with this idea of opening up the target audience: to a younger, urban and more diverse audience. HORNBACH agreed and the project was realised together with the advertising agency Heimat Berlin.

How did you come up with Ai Weiwei and what are the criteria for the selection of an artist, in generally selection an artist for your projects?

Rudolf Schürmann: We already work for more than 20 years together with artists. We have a scientific and thorough approach. For us it is interesting to work closely with artists and see how their artistic practice can fit with the aim of the company or institution. Accordingly, Ai Weiwei is undoubtedly one of the most interesting artists at the moment. That’s why we picked him.


Artist Talk between Ai Weiwei and Michelle Nicol, founder Neutral Zürich.

More info here.

Thanks for reading!




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