Ai Weiwei is among the world’s most celebrated contemporary artists and one of China’s most formidable critics. His sculptures, photographs, installations, and public artworks often repurpose recognizable Chinese forms and materials to address today’s most pressing social concerns. An outspoken human rights activist, Ai was arrested by Chinese authorities on April 3, 2011 and held incommunicado for eighty-one days. Only recently, he has been granted a passport to travel abroad despite ongoing government surveillance. Throughout, Ai has continued to extend his practice across multiple disciplines, using exhibitions, documentary films, and social media to communicate with a global public.
Several of Ai’s recent works make reference to the travel restrictions and surveillance imposed on the artist following his detention. In response to the Chinese government’s confiscation of his passport, starting on November 13, 2012, the artist began the everyday practice of placing a bouquet in a bicycle basket outside his Beijing studio, using vivid floral profusions to mock stale, bureaucratic power. Bicycle Basket with Flowers in Porcelain (2015), a delicate, remarkably precise sculpture created in the imperial kilns of Jingdezhen, commemorates this daily act of protest.
Ai Weiwei attended the Beijing Film Academy and the Parsons School of Design in New York. He has received the Chinese Contemporary Art Award (2008); an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Politics and Social Science, University of Ghent, Belgium (2010); the Skowhegan Medal (2011); and the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation (2012). His work has appeared in major exhibitions such as Documenta XII, Kassel, Germany (2007); Biennial de Sáo Paulo, Brazil (2010); 6th Yokohama Triennale, Japan (2017); and the 21st Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2018). He has been featured in solo exhibitions at institutions such as the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2009); Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2009); Tate Modern, London, U.K. (2010); Asia Society Museum, New York, NY (2011); the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany (2014); @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, organized by the FOR-SITE Foundation in collaboration with the National Park Service, San Francisco, CA (2014); Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (2015); National Gallery of Victoria, AU (2015); Le Bon Marché, Paris, France (2016); the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI (2017); the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2012, 2017); and the Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA.