“Ai Weiwei transforms his life into art, turning the things he encounters and the events he experiences into artistic statements. Yet this personal aspect is often coupled with references to specifically Chinese material and […] traditions. Regardless of whether he deconstructs these traditions or reshapes them, thus imbuing them with new qualities, their original meanings remain present in his works. By identifying and interpreting these references, one may hope to contribute to a better understanding of the multifaceted and highly complex dimensions of his art.” – Uta Rahman-Steinert, Ambivalent Deconstruction: Ai Weiwei’s approach to tradition in Ai Weiwei: Evidence, Prestel, 2014
An artist, thinker and activist, Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei is famous for conceptual artworks that challenge authorities and question the status quo of contemporary society. Initially known for his observations and comments on the authoritarian system in his home country, Weiwei has shifted his focus to social changes and political developments in the Western world in recent years. Revolving around themes such as human rights, economic exploitation and environmental degradation, his work often blurs the line between art and social activism. Ai Weiwei is one of the leading cultural figures of his generation and serves as an example for free expression both in China and internationally. His oeuvre encompasses sculpture, photography, printmaking, film, performance and installation. In 2011, Weiwei was arrested and detained for “economic crimes” for 81 days by the Chinese government. After being allowed to leave his country in 2015, he has lived in Berlin (Germany), Cambridge (United Kingdom) and in Portugal. His work has appeared in major exhibitions at Kunsthaus Bregenz, the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Tate Modern (London), São Paulo Bienal (2010), Haus der Kunst (Munich); Mori Art Museum (Tokyo) and Documenta XII (2007). Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 in Beijing.