Ai Weiwei was born in Beijing in 1957. He is the son of Gao Ying and Ai Qing, a Chinese poet who was denounced under Mao’s reign. They were subsequently exiled to Xinjiang in 1961, where they lived for 16 years. In 1979, Ai Weiwei was one of the founders of the early avantgarde art group called the “Stars Group” in Beijing. From 1981 to 1993, he lived in the United States, mostly in New York City. During this period, he was introduced to the works of Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns, and began creating conceptual art by altering readymade objects. In 1993, Ai returned to China after his father became ill.
Ai was commissioned as a design consultant, collaborating with the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics, also known as the “Bird’s Nest.” Ai Weiwei is mostly known for his critique of the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights.
On 3 April 2011, Ai was arrested at Beijing Capital International Airport just before boarding a flight to Hong Kong. On 22 June 2011, the Chinese authorities released Ai from jail after almost three months’ detention on charges of tax evasion. In 2015, the Chinese government returned his passport and Ai Weiwei left China. Today he lives in Berlin with his son and his partner.
Ai Weiwei, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2015
The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei, Tate Modern, London, 2010
Documenta XII, Kassel, Germany, 2007
Mahjong, works from the Sigg Collection, Kunstmuseum Bern, 2005
d’APERTutto, La Biennale di Venezia, 48. Esposizione Internationale d’Arte, Italy, 1999
The First Star Exhibition, outside the National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China, 1979