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 His passport was revoked and was only returned in July this year, allowing him to attend the opening of his first major UK exhibition, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.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.
Royal Academy of Arts, London
19 September – 13 December 2015
Interview by EMILY SPICER
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY
Ai Weiwei: According to What?
The Brooklyn Museum marks the final stop on this North American touring exhibition by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, titled According to What? Covering 13,000 sq ft (1,200 sq metres) and spanning 20 years, it is vast.
The Pérez Art Museum of Miami, Miami
Whereas everyone raves about the building, asking about the content is akin to inquiring after a terminal patient’s health. The decision to launch with Ai Weiwei’s travelling show, though not obvious to locals (as the Miami artist who recently smashed Ai’s pot demonstrated), must have seemed a no-brainer, given that the artist had consulted on Herzog and de Meuron’s “Bird’s Nest” in Beijing, but what else, and what after that?
Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China
In the mid-1980s and 90s, as China distanced itself from the policies of Mao Zedong, and his successors became more willing to engage with the outside world, Chinese contemporary art began to appear with increasing frequency in important international exhibitions.
Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950
In his novel The World Set Free (1913), the science fiction writer HG Wells described a post-atomic world in which a new weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb, had been discovered.
Our voice as protagonist – a meeting with Tania Bruguera
The chatter of a roomful of museum workers turned to silence the minute Tania Bruguera walked into the auditorium at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro.