b. 1957, Beijing, China
Lives in Cambridge, UK, and works globally
Born in 1957, Ai Weiwei is an artist-activist from China whose family was sent to a labour camp in Beidahuang when he was young. He studied at the Beijing Film Academy and became one of the founders of the avant-garde art group the Stars. In the early 1980s, Ai lived the U.S. where he gained exposure to works of Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. In New York, he lived in East Village and became friends with the beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Ai was fascinated with blackjack card games and became highly regarded in gambling circles. In 1993, he moved back to China and helped establish Beijing East Village and later founded the architecture studio FAKE Design. In 2000, Ai co-curated the exhibition Fuck Off in Shanghai. In 2008, he designed the stadium for the Olympics and in the same year investigated the Sichuan School scandal following the Sichuan earthquake. In 2011, he was arrested for on tax evasion and jailed for 81 days. International governments, human rights groups and art institutions called for Ai’s release. He was put on house arrest and his passport was confiscated. In 2015, he moved to Berlin and converted a former brewery into his studio. In 2017, he moved to live in Cambridge, England.
Ai has held numerous solo exhibitions, received Chinese Contemporary Art Award, Lifetime Achievement and many international awards. He has responded significantly to the increasing world crises of border disputes, political divisiveness and the rise of anti-immigration nationalism. Due to the critical subjects, Ai’s works have drawn debate and controversy. In Human Flow, he documented the displacement of millions of families in distress. The film draws attention to refugee camps with poor living conditions. In Good Fences Make Good Neighbors (2017), Ai created a series 300 installations around New York City, in response to President Trump’s anti-immigrant policy and pledge to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. The project was sponsored by NYC’s Public Art Fund.
Law of Journey (2016) is a culmination of Ai’s visiting 40 refugee camps in 20 countries. An all-black inflatable boat carrying faceless refugee figures. They represent those in exile escaping from Bangladesh, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Gaza, Mexico and countries across the globe. In At Sea (2016) is a video by Ai of refugees who attempt to cross by sea near the Greek island, Lesvos. In Idomeni (2016) record makeshift refugee camps at the borders of Macedonia and Greece near the Balkan Route. Odyssey (2016) are pictograms and computerized graphics depicting human experience of migration, war and plight. – AP
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