From writer, acitivist and filmmaker to architect, sculptor and photographer, Contemporary artist Ai WeiWei’s practice extends across many roles. In his work, he explores a range of geopolitical issues, often criticizing a strict censorship in China.
Ai WeiWei frequently places himself at risk to affect social change. He often exhibits his work publicly – in museums, communal outdoor spaces or via the internet, and in doing so; he displays great courage and serves as an example for legitimate social criticism and free expression.
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 house arrest, Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art presented in 2012 the exhibition Ai Weiwei, a solo show that revolved around China’s place in the world, mass production and global trade. Among the artworks selected for the exhibition was Sunflower Seeds, an installation comprising 5 metric tons of hand-painted ceramic sunflower seeds. It is a smaller version of a work exhibited at London’s Tate Modern, where the whole floor of the Turbine Hall was covered with 125 metric tons of porcelain sunflower seeds.
Ai Weiwei was born in Beijing in 1957, where he resides and works today. He attended Beijing Film Academy and continued his studies at the Parsons School of Design in New York. Among numerous awards and honours, he won the lifetime achievement award from the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards in 2008 and the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation, New York in 2012. He was also made Honorary Academician at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2011.
Major solo exhibitions include Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2014); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2014); Indianapolis Museum of Art (2013); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2012); Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan (2011); Tate Modern, London (2010) and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2009). Architectural collaborations include the 2012 Serpentine Pavilion and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Stadium, with Herzog and de Meuron.