ARTIST INDEX: Ai Weiwei
Article written by Sofia Cangiano on February 27th, 2017
"The art always wins. Anything can happen to me, but the art will stay."
- Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), gelatin silver print on Alu Dibond, in three parts, 53 1/2 x 42 7/8 inches.
Ai Weiwei (Chinese: 艾未未; pinyin, born 28 August 1957 in Beijing) is a an internationally renowned contemporary artist, activist, architect, curator, and filmmaker whose multifaceted array of work has been described as "subversive political critique into sleek minimalist aesthetics". Ai Weiwei learned early on about censorship of creative expression. His father, Ai Qing, once a respected poet was forced into exile in 1958 after deemed an “enemy of the state". As a result, Ai Weiwei did not return to his home city of Beijing until 1975. Then he entered the Beijing Film Academy, and co-created the Stars, a group inspired by art in the avant-garde genre. Weiwei relocated to New York City, where he lived 12 years between 1981 and 1993, taking classes at the Art Students League of New York and Parsons School of Design.
Ai WeiWei, study of perspective – Tienanmen square (1995-2003), gelatin silver print
His work includes sculptural installations, architectural projects, photographs, and videos whose provocative nature such as Study of Perspective- Tiananmen Square (1995-2005, gelatin silver print, 15 5/16 x 23 1/4", acquired by The Museum of Modern Art) (left) paired with being highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government's stance on democracy and human rights, and his investigations of government corruption and cover-ups - in particular the Sichuan school corruption scandal following the collapse of so-called "tofu-dreg schools" in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake - triggered various forms of repression and his arrest from Chinese authorities in 2011 at Beijing Capital International Airport and was detained 81 days without any official charges filed for supposed 'tax crimes'. In this same year, the influential magazine ArtReview named him ‘the most powerful artist in the world’ and also listed as one of the most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. It was also the same year he created New York Photographs 1983 - 1993 (2011). A selection of photographs from a larger collection of photographs he took while living in New York City from 1981-1993.
From 1981 to 1993, Ai Weiwei lived in the United States, mostly in New York where he graduated from Parsons School of Design; became exposed to Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns; and focused on Objéts Trouvés and altering ready-mades. While living in the East Village, Ai would carry a camera with him all the time taking pictures of his surroundings. A selection these are now known as the New York Photographs 1983 - 1993 (2011) (left). During his permanence in the United States he became a leading figure in the community of exiled Chinese artists, writers, and musicians. He became an active member of the American intellectual and artistic scene. This incident caused a wave of international protest and many important individuals called for his release. He continues to work as an architect, and in the summer of 2012, collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron to design the Serpentine Gallery Pavillion in London's Kensington Gardens.
According to Artprice.com, 270 lots of his were sold including painting, prints, sculpture, photography, drawing-watercolor, ceramic, furniture at a minimum price of $56.00 for the mixed-media painting Sunflower Seeds (2010) through Artesegno Casa d'Aste, Udine and a maximum price of $2,517,000 for Map of China (2009) through Christie's New York on May 11, 2016.
As Ai Weiwei's popularity skyrocketed, so did his works. Let's take his Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn tryptich , featured above as an example.
In 2016 Ai reached his first million in the photography medium with Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn at $1,091,806 in February 2016 through Sotheby's in London. In October of 2008, it was sold for $ 69,268 through Phillips de Pury & Company in London. (Source: Artprice.com; Sothebys.com)
Selected Works Currently On Sale
Selected Past Shows
MoMA, "9 +1 Ways of Being Political: 50 Years of Political Stances in Architecture and Urban Design", September 12, 2012 - June 9, 2013, New York, NY
"Ai Weiwei: According to What?", Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, April 18 - august 10, 2014
"Ai Wei Wei.vLibero", Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, IT, September 23, 2016 - January 22, 2017
Current & Upcoming Shows
Galleria Continua at ZⓢONAMACO 2017, Ciudad de México, Feb 8 – 12, 2017
Galerie Forsblom, "Ai Weiwei: Tyre", Stockholm, Feb 5 – Mar 26, 2017
Carolina Nitsch Contemporary Art at The Armory Show, New York, Mar 2 – 5, 2017
The Guggenheim Museum
- He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular the Sichuan schools corruption scandal following the collapse of so-called "tofu-dreg schools" in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.In 2011, following his arrest at Beijing Capital International Airport on 3 April, he was held for 81 days without any official charges being filed; officials alluded to their allegations of "economic crimes".
" I lost all connection with the outside world and was immersed in a world of darkness. I was scared that my existence would fade silently. No one knew where I was, and no one would even know. I was just like a small soybean - one fallen to the ground, it rolls into a crack in the corner. Being unable to make any sounds, it will forever be forgotten." cit. from WeiWei-sms
- Ai suffered headaches and claimed he had difficulty concentrating on his work since returning from Chengdu in August 2009, where he was beaten by the police for trying to testify for Tan Zuoren, a fellow investigator of the shoddy construction and student casualties in the earthquake. On 14 September 2009, Ai was diagnosed to be suffering internal bleeding in a hospital in Munich, Germany, and the doctor arranged for emergency brain surgery. The cerebral hemorrhage is believed to be linked to the police attack
"When i checked into a hospital, I was told there was bleeding in my brain and I was near fatal collapse. I was rushed into surgery. When I awoke I felt like a normal person again. But I will not fell whole until I and my fellow Chinese can live freely." cit. from WeiWei-sms