Ai Weiwei a quick biography
Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 in Beijing. The son of the one of China’s most respected and well-known poets, Ai Qing, Ai spent his childhood in political exile in rural Xinjiang Province following his father’s denunciation in the 1957 Anti-Rightist Campaign.
Twenty years passed before Ai Qing was rehabilitated and his family allowed to return to Beijing.
In 1978, and following his return to the capital, Ai enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy and participated in early 1980’s avant-garde art activities. In 1981 Ai left China for New York to pursue his artistic career and enrolled in the Parsons School of Design in 1983.
Although he would never complete his degree, Ai spent over a decade in New York. There he produced the occasional work of art and was host to an expanding circle of artists from the mainland.
Ai returned to Beijing in 1993 at his father’s request. After returning to Beijing, Ai became involved in the city’s burgeoning experimental art scene. From 1993 to 2000 Ai partnered with various artists, curators and independent scholars to expand China’s contemporary art spheres through publishing and exhibition initiatives. In 1999 Ai established FAKE Design, an art, architecture and design studio.
Ai ’s work was most recently filled the Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern and has been the subject of major solo exhibitions at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum (2009) and Munich’s Haus der Kunst (2009). Ai conceived of the design of the National Olympic Stadium, completed in 2008 for the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
He has also produced special projects in association with documenta XII (2007) for which he brought 1,001 Chinese to Kassel, Germany.
In 2008 Ai’s life and work became the focus of increasing scrutiny following his dismissal of the 2008 Olympic Games as political propaganda. That same year, Ai also emerged as a prominent activist, organizing a team of volunteers for his Sichuan Earthquake Names Project, an effort to record the names of more than 5,000 schoolchildren killed in poorly constructed classrooms.
As his work has increasingly conflated politics, activism and art, Ai became one of the most high profile critics of the Chinese government, a position that resulted in the closure of his blog, ongoing police surveillance, a violent encounter with the Chengdu police in August 2009, house arrest, denial of exit at the Beijing airport and the demolition of his studio complex in Shanghai in January 2011.
In spite of danger to himself, Ai remains fearlessly outspoken and a constant advocate for freedom of expression and open access to information — principles all the more fragile and precious in China.
Ai’s life and work provide compelling insight into the complexities of contemporary China. He has become a transcendent cultural figure, a man whose fusion of art and activism resonates not only in China but globally.