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Ai Weiwei + WWF launch Tomorrow’s Tigers 2022

Ai Weiwei + WWF launch Tomorrow’s Tigers 2022
Copyright Thierry Bal Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio

WWF has launched Tomorrow’s Tigers 2022, a major fundraising project with selling exhibition featuring specially commissioned, limited-edition art rugs by 12 internationally renowned artists, including a limited-edition art rug by Peter Doig and a unique, one-of-a-kind art rug by the leading Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Tomorrow’s Tigers 2022 is a brand-new phase of a critically acclaimed project, devised and curated by Artwise Curators, working with specialist rug producers Christopher Farr.

Coinciding with this year’s Lunar Year of the Tiger and the culmination of the global TX2 commitment to double wild tiger numbers, Tomorrow’s Tigers’ goal is to pass £1 million generated in sales of art rugs since the project’s launch and highlight the continued threat to wild tiger populations and the ongoing work of WWF internationally to address this. Led by Artwise Curators in partnership with WWF, Tomorrow’s Tigers is also the featured project for Art For Your World in 2022. Art For Your World works with the art world to help tackle the climate and nature crisis. It supports five key WWF projects and areas of work including protecting habitats and species – with this year’s focus being tiger landscapes.

Artwise has entrusted rug experts Christopher Farr, with their in-depth knowledge of antique rugs as well as extensive experience of producing limited edition art pieces,to realise and interpret each artist’s vision as faithfully as possible. Utilising their network of master craftsmen, each original artwork is translated in natural wools and silks and created by hand, involving a combination of traditional and innovative weaving techniques.

Taking inspiration from the increasingly rare antique tiger rugs of Tibet, these exquisite rugs push the boundaries of the art form, with each artist responding to both the splendour and the grave plight of tigers in the wild to create their own vision of what a tiger rug could be.

For many years I have been actively researching on and documenting the human-animal relationship, so it is a theme that I am familiar with. I also have a long-term interest in Tibetan rugs and the motif of tigers on them for a long time. That’s why I accepted WWF’s invitation without hesitation. 

In my opinion, human civilization can only be measured against human beings’ relationship with other beings in the world, our tolerance and understanding towards other species, and the well-being of all life. As a matter of fact, this kind of tolerance and understanding is very rare and difficult to find. Through the rug design, I hope to be able to do something for tigers; the meaning of their existence surpasses the scope of our comprehension, and yet 95% of tigers in the wild have gone extinct over the last 100 years. Protection of endangered animals is a kind of self-love, without which we would all be living in a savage land.

Ai Weiwei 

Ai Weiwei’s design is a playful adaptation of the abstracted patterns and reduced palette of colours to be found in traditional Tibetan tiger rugs. Fabricated in Afghanistan by the master weavers of Turquoise Mountain under the direction of Christopher Farr, Tyger is woven in traditional Ghazani wool using only natural colours, including undyed white and black sheep’s wool, together with oranges created using a mixture of saffron, yellow larkspur and madder.  

Tibetan Tiger rugs hold huge cultural significance. First created in Tibet in the 19th century as an act of veneration, these sacred rugs convey some of the awe and wonder of this powerful and majestic animal. Traditionally the rugs were made as gifts for monks, known as lamas, in their monasteries; the tiger skin motif was thought to protect the person during meditation. Like their new counterparts, the rugs range from the broadly abstract to the more clearly descriptive – all paying homage to the sublime beauty of the endangered tiger.

At the beginning of the 20th century, experts suggest there may have been 100,000 tigers in the wild. Today, the global population has shrunk by around 95 per cent. This is the shocking legacy of threats including rampant poaching and habitat loss which, if not tackled, could mean that tigers head towards extinction. WWF has been at the forefront of TX2 – driving ambitious and innovative conservation plans that aim to reverse the decline. In 2016, tiger numbers increased for the first time in conservation history – reaching around 3,900 -and in July this year IUCN Red List released an estimate of around 4,500 wild tigers. Recent efforts to protect habitat suitable for tigers has resulted in 73-83% of the wild population now being within protected areas

Apart from the unique contribution from Ai Weiwei, the rugs are each made in a limited edition of up to 10 and will retail at prices starting at £10,000 – £150,000 with profits supporting tiger conservation globally. The 13 tiger range countries are: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Over this last decade, a century-long trend of wild tiger decline has been reversed – providing a glimmer of hope. Protecting tigers protects more than just this one iconic species – their presence represents healthy ecosystems and habitats, with tiger landscapes playing a vital role in storing carbon. Sadly, the trend of recovery is not consistent across all tiger range countries, with South-East Asia a particular concern. Recovering tiger populations requires a close partnership with local communities and commitment from governments to make this a reality.

Becci May, Senior Programme Advisor, Asia Programmes, WWF-UK, said:

WWF supported areas have already seen increases in tiger numbers this century – demonstrating that the aims of TX2 are within reach. WWF invites you to support Tomorrow’s Tigers in generating more than £1 million from the sale of these stunning and highly collectable art rugs to sustain this vital conservation work.

Tomorrow’s Tigers, Curated by Artwise for WWF, 24th November – 29th November 2022, Sotheby’s London 34-35 New Bond Street London W1A 2AA UK

How to Buy

The rugs will be available to buy through the Art for Your World Website. Follow the project:  @artforyourworld for updates

WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organisations, active in nearly 100 countries. Our supporters – more than five million of them – are helping us to restore nature and to tackle the main causes of nature’s decline, particularly the food system and climate change. We’re working to ensure a world with thriving habitats and species, and to change hearts and minds so it becomes unacceptable to overuse our planet’s resources. WWF. For your world.  For wildlife, for people, for nature.  Find out more about our work, past and present at wwf.org.uk



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