About Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei, 2012. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio.

Ai Weiwei was born in Beijing in 1957. The following year, his family was sent to a labor camp in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, then spent 16 years exiled in the western province of Xinjiang. The family resettled in Beijing in 1976, after the death of Mao Zedong and the end of the Cultural Revolution. Ai studied animation at the Beijing Film Academy but spent most of the 1980s and early ‘90s residing in New York. There he began making conceptual artworks as well as photographs of political unrest, police violence and homeless people—concerns that remain central to his practice.

Returning to China in 1993, Ai helped to establish the Beijing East Village artist colony, the China Art Archives & Warehouse independent art space and the architecture studio FAKE Design. He collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron on the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Through his investigations into the circumstances prior to and following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, he emerged as a prominent government critic and was arrested in 2011. He remained under constant surveillance until 2015, when his passport was returned to him and he could leave the country. He currently lives and works in Berlin.

Ai’s work has been exhibited at major venues around the world, including recently at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City (2019), Israel Museum in Jerusalem (2017), the National Gallery Prague (2017), the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul (2017), the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (2011), and the Tate Modern in London (2010). In 2017 he was commissioned to create a citywide installation, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, for New York City’s Public Art Fund. His many honors include Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award (2015), the inaugural Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent (2012), and the Chinese Contemporary Art Award for Lifetime Achievement (2008).

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