Ai Weiwei
Date of birth
Place Of birth
Beijing, China
Born in Beijing in 1957, the son of famous poet Ai Qing, Ai Weiwei was sent into exile in Xinjiang Province with his family during the Anti-Rightist campaigns of the late 1950s. The humiliation experienced by his father during these years, and the hardships the family endured, had a profound influence on Ai’s life and work. He attended Beijing Film Academy, and later, in New York, studied at Parsons School of Design. Ai Weiwei participates in exhibitions worldwide (more than one hundred in 2014 alone.) Living in New York’s East Village for a decade from the early 1980s, he discovered the work of Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol, and encountered conceptual and performance art. Returning to China, his practice focused on notions of authenticity and the destruction of Chinese traditions during the Cultural Revolution and, more recently, as a result of urbanisation and westernisation. The transformation of the found object is characteristic of his practice, together with the use of materials such as ancient urns, antique furniture, porcelain, and even whole temple structures. More recently, Ai has focused on human rights and freedom of speech. Among many honours are the lifetime achievement award from the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards in 2008 and the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation, New York, in 2012. Ai Weiwei was a runner-up for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2011, and in the same year was made Honorary Academician at the Royal Academy in London. Late in 2015, Ai Weiwei was able to take up a guest professorship as Einstein Visiting Professor at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK).

Works by this artist