3 February – 10 June, 2012

Curator: Tessa Praun


“Ai Weiwei has remarkable sensibility and strength in his visual expression, which is effective in conveying a rather complex and significant content. When I met Ai Weiwei in his studio he had just been held under house arrest for a few days. He was calm but keenly aware that he was already in a very uncertain and tenuous situation. After the events of the past year I think that it is ever more important for elements of his political work to be present in the exhibition“
Tessa Praun, curator at Magasin 3, met Ai Weiwei in fall 2010 at his Beijing studio.


To make Ai Weiwei’s voice heard, Magasin 3 has created a ressource for learning more about his artistry and activism. Descriptions of artwork, articles, interviews, videos and digital projects introduce visitors to the exhibition and related programs while also providing additional information about his social engagement.

The material is accessible via Magasin 3’s website and as part of the reading room in the exhibition.

To the reading room

Magasin 3 presents the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in his first solo exhibition in Sweden.

The exhibition will focus on a number of Ai Weiwei’s monumental installations and his political work. A reading room which will also include documentary films will give visitors a chance to learn about his multifaceted efforts to foster social change in China—an activism that puts him on a collision course with the regime.

Ai Weiwei often refers to pre-revolutionary China and its cultural and craft traditions in his work. He seeks out iconic objects with great cultural and symbolic value for the Chinese, and then deliberately treats them with complete disregard for its worth or intended function. The artworks can be seen as commentary on the disdain that Mao’s Cultural Revolution showed the past as well as a way for Ai Weiwei himself to dispatch with conventional notions about art and its value. The works chosen for the exhibition all address Chinese socialism, mass production and global trade.

Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 in Beijing. He co-founded the avant-garde artists’ group Stars at the end of the 1970s before moving to New York in 1983. There he was a leading figure in the community of exiled Chinese artists, writers and musicians and became an active member of the American intellectual and artistic scene. In 1993 Ai Weiwei returned to China where he has worked not only as an artist, but also as a curator, architect and blogger. In recent years his activism for social change in China has increased, making him one of the most outspoken critics of the regime.


In conjunction with the exhibition Magasin 3 has invited international participants to take part in a series of talks. These events will address Ai Weiwei¹s art, democracy and human rights in relation to creativity and how digital media is used in the struggle for freedom of expression.

Tuesday February 21

Ai Weiwei’s Artistry

A conversation between Ulrich Wilmes, chief curator at Haus der Kunst, Munich, and Tessa Praun, curator at Magasin 3 for the Ai Weiwei exhibition.

Venue: Bio Rio, Hornstulls Strand, 6 pm. In English.

Listen to the conversation here

Tuesday March 13

The Power of the Microblogs – What is the Significance of Ai Weiwei and other Net Activists for Freedom of Speech in China?

Michael Anti (Zhao Jing), Chinese journalist, blogger and net acitivist currently at Harvard University.
Marina Svensson, Sinologist and China expert at Lund University with focus on human rights, justice and the Chinese media.
Christian Christensen, Professor at the Department of Media and Communication Studies at Uppsala University.
Moderator: Ulrika K. Engström, Swedish PEN and Enact consulting firm, where she works with sustainable strategies for business development with focus on China and human rights.

Venue: Panoramascenen, vån 5, Kulturhuset, Sergels Torg, 7 pm. Hotade ord in collaboration with Swedish PEN. In English. Free admission.

Tuesday March 27

Freedom of Speech, Democracy, Human Rights – China in Relation to the Rest of the World

Börje Ljunggren, Swedish diplomat and expert on Asia, the former ambassador in China.
Andrew J. Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University, New York, teaching and research on Chinese politics and human rights.
Malin Oud, sinologist with a focus on human rights and sustainable development
Moderator: Dominic Ziegler, London-based Asia editor of The Economist and the journal’s former China correspondent.

Venue: ABF, Zetasalen, Sveavägen 41, 6 pm.
No pre-booking. In English

Thursday April 26

Authoritarian Regimes and the Arts – In Europe Over the Past 50 Years

Samuel Finzi, Bulgarian/German theatre and film actor.
Ivana Sajko, born 1975 in Zagreb (Croatia), is a writer, director and performer.
Folker Skulima, legendary Berlin gallerist and writer.
Moderator: Berit Schuck, dramaturge and independent curator based in Berlin.

Venue: Goethe-Institut, Bryggargatan 12 A, 6 pm. In English.
Free admission, but pre-registration required:

Tuesday May 8

Preconditions for Contemporary Art in China

Lars Nittve, Museum Director, M+, Hong Kong.
Jérôme Sans, independent curator, former director of Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing.
Uli Sigg, collector of Chinese contemporary art.
Karen Smith, curator and art historian, Beijing.
Moderator: David Neuman, Museum Director at Magasin 3.

Venue: Moderna Museet, The Auditorium, Skeppsholmen, 6 pm. In English

The program series is organized together with ABF, Bio Rio, Goethe-Institut, Moderna Museet, Swedish PEN, Kulturhuset/Hotade ord with the generous support of Kulturrådet and Svenska PostkodLotteriet. Special thanks to the Culture Without Borders Foundation.

Changes may occur. For more information, please contact program coordinator Sara Källström,, +46 8 545 680 52

About the artist

Ai Weiwei was born in Beijing in 1957. For the first eighteen years of his life he and his family lived in exile at the edges of the Gobi desert, because his father Ai Qing was persecuted by the communist party as a dissident political activist, poet and author. It was not until 1975 that Ai Weiwei and his family could return home to Beijing.

Towards the end of the 1970’s, Ai Weiwei began studying film at the Beijing Film Academy and founded the avant-garde artists’ collective Xing Xing (Stars). In 1981 he moved to New York where he studied at the Parsons School of Design and at the Art Students League of New York. Seven years later, he had his first solo exhibition: Old Shoes, Safe Sex. Ai Weiwei mixed with exiled Chinese artists, authors, musicians and architects, and became part of the American intellectual and cultural scene.

In 1993, Ai Weiwei returned to China, where he has since become a foreground figure in Chinese contemporary art. His passion for freedom of speech and commitment to social change in China have intensified over the years to the point where he is today one of the regime’s most vocal critics. China’s progression from empire to single-party socialist republic driven by a new capitalist spirit has largely been achieved at the cost of its citizen’s personal freedoms. Time and again, Ai Weiwei stresses individual liberty and personal responsibility as the only route to a functioning, humane society.

In 2007, Ai Weiwei created Fairytale, a unique project for the Documenta 12 exhibition in Kassel, Germany. Ai Weiwei arranged for 1,001 Chinese citizens to travel to Kassel free of charge, where they remained for one week of the exhibition. Selected parts of this project are on view at Magasin 3, along with his Sunflower Seeds, a work comprising 5 metric tons of hand-painted ceramic sunflower seeds. This is a version of the installation exhibited at London’s Tate Modern, where the floor of the Turbine Hall was covered with 125 metric tons of porcelain sunflower seeds.

While tending to base his works on Chinese culture, Ai Weiwei ensures that they remain accessible to an international public. They can be regarded not only as a critical commentary on the Maoist Cultural Revolution’s contempt for the past, but also as a means for Ai Weiwei to come to terms with conventional perceptions and values of culture and cultural heritage. He often makes use of iconic artefacts that have great cultural or symbolic significance for Chinese people, and then consciously manipulates them without respect to their value or original function. The works selected for the exhibition at Magasin 3 all revolve around China’s place in the world, mass production and global trade.

Ai Weiwei is also a blogger, curator and architect. He used his blogg to denounce Chinese authorities and draw attention to the country’s many social problems. In June 2009 the blog was shut down by the authorities after his public condemnation of how the government restricted access to information about the victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Ai Weiwei was artistic consultant to the Swiss architect firm Herzog & de Meuron for Beijing ’s olympic stadium “the Bird’s Nest” and will collaborate with them again on the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 in London.

In April 2011, Ai Weiwei was arrested and detained on unclear grounds at an unknown location for three months. His plight has since brought him considerable attention from quarters far beyond the world of art. On his release in June 2011, he was prohibited from travelling for a year and banned from expressing his views via the internet and other media.

Despite his absence, his work has been exhibited at the Mary Boone Gallery, New York (January and February 2012), the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (October 2011 – March 2012) and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (November 2011 – February 2012). Summer 2011, his Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads was shown at New York’s Pulitzer Fountain and London’s Somerset House.

Ai Weiwei’s works have been exhibited in some of the world’s most significant art venues: the Tate Modern Turbine Hall, London (2010); the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (2011); Stiftung DKM, Duisburg (2010); the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland (2010); Arcadia University Gallery, Glenside (2010); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2009); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2009); Three Shadows Photography Art Center, Beijing (2009); the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Cambelltown Arts Center, Sydney (2008); and Groninger Museum, Groningen (2008).

His works have also featured in the Venice Biennial in Italy (1999); the Guangzhou Triennial in China (2002); the Montpellier Biennial of Chinese Contemporary Art in France (2005); the Guangzhou Triennial in China (2005); the Busan Biennial in Korea (2006); the Asia Pacific Triennial for Contemporary Art in Australia (2006); documenta 12 in Germany (2007); the Liverpool Biennial International 08 in Britain (2008); the Venice Architecture Biennial; and the São Paulo Biennial in Brazil (2010).


Beijing 2003, 2003
October 18 – November 7
Video, 150 hr.
Courtesy Ai Weiwei and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne

Beijing: The Second Ring, 2005
January 14 – February 11
Video, 1 hr. 6 min.
Assistant photographer: Zhao Zhao
Courtesy Ai Weiwei and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne

Beijing: The Third Ring, 2005
January 1 – January 9
Video, 1 hr. 50 min.
Assistant photographer: Zhao Zhao
Courtesy Ai Weiwei and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne

Chang’an Boulevard, 2004
Video, 10 hr. 13 min.
Courtesy Ai Weiwei and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne

Fairytale Dormitory, 2007
(1 unit, 10 beds for women)
Wood, steel, fabric, plastic, bamboo
Courtesy Ai Weiwei; Leister Foundation, Switzerland; Erlenmeyer Stiftung, Switzerland; and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne

Fairytale People, 2007
100 x 100 cm
Courtesy Ai Weiwei; Leister Foundation, Switzerland; Erlenmeyer Stiftung, Switzerland; and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne

Fairytale, 2007
Documentary film, 2 hr. 32 min.
English subtitles
Courtesy Ai Weiwei; Leister Foundation, Switzerland; Erlenmeyer Stiftung, Switzerland; and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne

Ai Weiwei & Serge Spitzer (1951, Rumänien/Romania)
Ghost Gu Coming Down the Mountain, 2005–2006
Red and white porcelain, 96 vases
Courtesy Faurschou Foundation

Stool, 2008
Two stools from the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)
The Zagury Collection

Sunflower Seeds, 2009
Porcelain, 5 tons
Courtesy Faurschou Foundation

World Map, 2006–2009
Cotton and wooden bases
Courtesy Faurschou Foundation