Ai Weiwei

Nationality : Chinese

Birth Year : 1957

Place of Birth : Beijing


Occupation: Conceptual Artist and Political Activist
Education: Beijing Film Academy, Art Students League
Famous Artworks
“Safe Sex,” 1983
“Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” 1995
“Fairytale,” 2007
“Bird’s Nest,” National Olympic Stadium, 2008
 “Remembering,” 2009
“Sunflower Seeds,” 2010
“Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads,” 2010
“Illumination,” 2014
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist. A firm believer in free speech, he uses his art to give expression to his political ideas. He has regularly been in the news for his radical works often made with the criticism of the Chinese government in mind. 
Early Years and Education
Ai Weiwei was born in Beijing to the respected modernist poet Ai Qing. Ai Qing was accused of “Rightism” in 1958, and the family was exiled to Beidahuang, and later to Shihezi, where he was made to work as a toilet cleaner. It was only in the 1970s that the Western world began asking about his whereabouts that his situation became better. The family was allowed to return to Beijing in 1976, after the Cultural Revolution had ended. 
Ai Weiwei had always been interested in art, and been encouraged in this by his family and friends. Two years after the family’s return to Beijing, he enrolled at the Beijing Film Academy. He also met and became involved with a number of young artists who formed themselves into the group “Xingxing,” or Stars. They exhibited together over the next few years. 
Move to the United States
Ai left for the United States in 1981, and settled in New York. His apartment was a place for other Chinese artist to meet and stay, if they weren’t residents of the city. He enrolled briefly at the Parsons School of Design, and in 1983 began taking classes at the Art Students League, where he worked under Bruce Dorfman and Knox Martin. He did all sorts of odd jobs to support himself. Although he had started out as a painter, he became more interested in sculpture over time, and he had a solo exhibition in 1988. Success, however, didn’t come his way. 
However, he was fascinated with card games, and became an expert blackjack player, often playing in casinos in Atlantic City.
Return to China
Ai had been more or less out of touch with his family in China. In 1993 he got news that his father was ill. He made the decision to go back, and upon his return, settled in Beijing. He began working on a number of projects, including a set of three books with Feng Boyi, “Black Cover Book,” “White Cover Book,” and Grey Cover Book.” 
Ai moved into the international scene with his work “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” which, in three photographs, shows him doing exactly that, with the last photograph picturing the smashed urn. 
The Late Nineties and the Turn of the Century
Ai was responsible for founding the China Art Archives & Warehouse in 1997. He is still the institution’s director. In 1999 he made himself a studio that he designed himself, as he had always had an interest in architecture. As a result, he started his own design firm, Fake, four years later. 
Political Activism
Ai began blogging in 2005. He wrote biting criticisms of the government and its ways of functioning. He used the platform to communicate with thousands of followers. It was shut down in 2009. 
This was probably the result of his response to the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan. A large number of young school students died that day because of faulty building materials used in the construction of the school. Ai was publicly insistent on finding out why this had happened, and created the work “Remembering” in response. Ai was assaulted by the police when he was visiting Chengdu to testify at a colleague’s trial. He was beaten and could not attend the trial that was only a few hours away. 
Meanwhile, Ai had been commissioned to work with the architects Herzog & de Meuron on the stadium that was constructed for the Beijing Olympics of 2008. He worked on it for a number of years before becoming disenchanted with the project and distancing himself from it.
Controversy and Arrest
Ai was put under effective house arrest towards the end of 2010. He had been building a new studio in Shanghai in the last few years, and it had apparently violated some restrictions. As a result, he was served with a notice for its demolition. He protested, as he had applied for all the permits that were still being processed. However, no regard was paid to him, and the building was destroyed in early 2011. He was arrested a few months later for “economic crimes.” He was detained for 81 days before being released. His movements are still regulated by the government; it was only in July 2015 that he was allowed a passport and the right to travel. He continues to work from Beijing, and continues voicing his criticisms through the Internet. 
Ai released a music album in 2013, “Dumbass.”
1957  -  Born in Beijing
1958  -  The family moves to Beidahuang
1961  -  Moves to Shihezi
1976  -  The family returns to Beijing
1978  -  Enrolls at the Beijing Film Academy; is cofounder of the group “Stars”
1981  -  Moves to New York
1983  -  Attends classes at the Art Students League 
1993  -  Returns to China
1997  -  Founding of the China Art Archives & Warehouse
2003  -  Starts his design firm Fake
2005  -  Begins blogging
2010  -  Arrested and jailed
2011  -  Released from jail
1999  -  Venice Biennale
2007  -  Retrospective at the Today Art Museum, Beijing
2007  -  Documenta XII, Kassel
2009  -  Retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
2010  -  Sao Paulo Biennale
2012  -  Louisiana Museum
2012  -  Humlebaek, Denmark
2012  -  Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.
2012  -  Museum de Pint, Tilburg
2013  -  Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
Musée National d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Museum fur Asiatische Kunst, Berlin
Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt
Museum DKM, Duisburg
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Museum of Arts and Design, New York
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Solomon R. Guggehheim Museum, New York
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing
Tate Modern, London
Saatchi Collection, London
Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane
Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
“Kunst aus China auf der Art Basel. Steigende Nachfrage,” by B. Hopfener
“A Kind of True Living,” by P. Tinari
“China Art Book,” by Uta Grosenick and Caspar Schübbe (Eds.)
“God Ai,” by Du Bin
“Ai Weiwei: Under Construction,” by Laura Murray
“Ai Weiwei,” by P. Tinari, C. Merewether, U. Meile, and P. Pakesch

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 [Untitled] by  Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei


Pierre Berge & Associes, Paris

December 15, 2015


 Next To You by  Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

Next To You

Bloomsbury Auctions, London

December 2, 2015


 Shanghai Studio by  Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

Shanghai Studio

Bonhams, London

November 24, 2015


 Ohne Titel by  Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

Ohne Titel

Nagel Auktionen, Stuttgart

November 18, 2015

$12,834  USD

 Zodiac Head - Dragon by  Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

Zodiac Head - Dragon

Sotheby's, New York

November 11, 2015

$490,000  USD

 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, 2012 by  Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, 2012

Waddingtons, Toronto

November 2, 2015

$1,559  USD

 Surveillance Camera by  Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

Surveillance Camera

Heritage Auctions, New York

October 28, 2015

$401,000  USD

 Watermelon by  Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei


Christie's, London

October 16, 2015

$96,494  USD

 Grapes by  Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei


Christie's, London

October 16, 2015

$652,298  USD


Ai Weiwei Poses as Drowned Syrian Child, David Zwirner Eyes Hong Kong, and More

By Noelle Bodick | February 1, 2016

— Ai Weiwei Poses as Drowned Syrian Refugee: In what appears as a well-intentioned but seriously misguided stunt, Ai Weiwei has recreated the famous photograph of the drowned Syrian refugee...

Chinese Contemporary Art at Fondation Louis Vuitton

By Darryl Jingwen Wee | January 18, 2016

The Fondation Louis Vuitton shines the spotlight on contemporary Chinese art for their first exhibition of 2016, showcasing around a dozen artists whose practices collectively give visitors a...

Ai Weiwei Plans Documentary on Lesbos Situation, Returns to China

By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop | January 15, 2016

Just one month ago, Ai Weiwei was on the Greek island of Lesbos to announce he had set up a studio, which he plans to visit regularly to drum up awareness and support for refugees who are...

Sneak Peek: Ai Weiwei Takes Over Le Bon Marché in Paris

By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop | January 11, 2016

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei is taking over Le Bon Marché, an upscale department store in Paris, with a giant installation titled “Er Xi, Air de Jeux” (or Child's Play).The commissioned...

Ai Weiwei Gifts Politically Charged “Letgo Room” to the NGV Melbourne

By Nicholas Forrest | December 13, 2015

Ai Weiwei has gifted his major new installation “Letgo Room” 2015 to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). The NGV commissioned the work for its Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition which opened...

Ai Weiwei Opens Landmark “Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei” Exhibition at NGV

By Nicholas Forrest | December 10, 2015

Ai Weiwei has opened the exhibition “Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei” at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) after Chinese authorities returned his passport earlier this year, enabling him to travel...

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Sneak Peek: Ai Weiwei Takes Over Le Bon Marché

By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop | January 11, 2016

Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei at NGV International

By Nicholas Forrest | December 10, 2015

Steady Sales at Frieze and Frieze Masters 2015

By Judd Tully | October 14, 2015

Sneak Peek: Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy London

By Nicholas Forrest | September 17, 2015

Galleria Continua's "Follia Continua"

By Rachel Will | July 24, 2015

Phillips Contemporary Art Evening Sale

By Regina Mogilevskaya | June 29, 2015

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