Ai Weiwei

*1957 in Beijing, lives there and in Berlin

The Chinese sculptor, concept- and installation artist, filmmaker and book author comments and criticizes the grave changes China has been going through since the country’s economic opening with his works. As son to a poet and painter, Ai Weiwei got in contact with art at an early age. Today he’s one of the internationally most well-known representatives of Chinese Art.

In 2011, Ai Weiwei was arrested by the Chinese authorities and held for 81 days. During his incarceration, he was accepted at the Berlin Academy of Arts and obtained a guest professorship at the Berlin University of Arts. After his release, Ai Weiwei was unable to leave China for a few years. In 2015, the artist received his passport back and was able to leave his home country again after a longer time in the summer and therefore visit his son, who lives in Germany. He was also able to finally assume his guest professorship in Berlin.

The colliding of Chinese and Western culture, loss of value und tradition, but also artistic freedom itself, censure by the government and dealings with human rights are central themes in Ai Weiweis works. For one of his most famous performances, Dropping a Hand Dynasty Urn (1995), Ai Weiwei shmashed centuries old Chinese bases to pieces. As a commission for the museum “Tate Modern” in London, Ai Weiwei ordered a hundred million hand-painted, burned porcelain sun flower seeds in 2011 to be produced by 1.600 workers in the Chinese ‘Proclain City” Jingdezhen, who did so over two years. This way, he called attention to slowly waning traditional Chinese handicraft traditions. The sunflower seeds have a positive image in Chinese History as a symbol for compassion and friendship, and are also a popular street snack. On the other side, Mao Tse-Tung liked to be shown as the sun on propaganda posters, whom all the sunflowers (the Chinese people) faced.

Exhibitions and awards (selection):

Additionally to a gues proffesorship at the Berliner Academy of Arts and the University of Arts (2011), Ai Weiwei has been awarded the Kasseler citizen’s award Glas der Vernunft (2010). He has also received the honorary doctorate at the university Ghent and the Skowhegan Medal (2011) and the Chinese Contemporary Art Award (2008).

Ai Weiweis works have been shown internationally in many solo exhibitions, among others at the Kunsthaus Bregenz (2011), the Victoria&Albert Museum London (2011), Asia Society Museum London (2011), Tate Modern, London (2010), Haus der Kunst Munich (2009). Ai Weiwei also participated in the Documenta XII (2007) and the Biennial in São Paulo (2010). Recently, the Londonder Royal Academy of Arts dedicated him an immersive retrospective.