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Published 17/09/2015 email E-MAIL print PRINT

The art behind the activist: Adrian Locke talks about Ai Weiwei

A rebel, an iconoclast and a playful symbolist – Ai Weiwei is all these things, but surely history will remember him as one of China’s most influential dissident artists. Curator Adrian Locke talks about Ai’s latest exhibition at the Royal Academy

Ai Weiwei’s work directly references human rights abuses, corruption and censorship. Type his name into a search engine in China and you will find no trace of him. As a result of his outspoken opposition to the Chinese government, he has been subject to violent beatings and torture. In 2011, he was imprisoned by the Chinese authorities for 81 days without charge. His passport was revoked and was only returned in July this year, allowing him to attend the opening of his first major UK exhibition, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

But Ai’s works are as much about the properties of the materials he uses and a complex relationship to history, as they are political statements. We spoke to curator Adrian Locke, who is keen to remind us of Ai Weiwei the artist, as well as Ai Weiwei the activist.

Ai Weiwei
Royal Academy of Arts, London
19 September – 13 December 2015

Interview by EMILY SPICER
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY



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