Ai Weiwei (Artist)

Ai Weiwei was born in Beijing in August 1957 to Chinese poet Ai Quing, his father. In 1958, he and his family were sent to a labor camp when Ai Weiwei was just a year old. In 1961 they were exiled to Shihezi, Xinjiang, where they lived for 16 years.

From 1981 -1993, Ai Weiwei lived in the United States, New York, where he attended college for the arts but eventually dropped out of classes. He then went on to work as a street artist, doing animations and oddball drawing for passers by. This is where he was exposed to the artistic likes of Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp and Jasper Johns. These artists ultimately inspired Ai to start creating art from existing objects. While living in the West Village, Ai would carry a camera around with him wherever he went and take photographs of his surroundings. Those photographs are now a collection known as The New York Photographs.

On April 3, 2011. Ai was arrested at his home along with his wife and eight staff members. The police wrapped his entire property in yellow tape and searched the entire premises, removing laptops, hard drives and other electronics. State media originally reported that he was arrested at the airport for failing to complete his departure procedures. However, the very next day, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that Ai had been arrested for alleged economic criminal activity.

Ai was released on June 22, 2011 and had strict orders not to leave the city of Beijing. There was a large outcry of support from Ai’s friends, colleagues and fans all over the world for the immediate release of his freedoms. One year later, on June 21, 2012, Ai was informed that he was allowed to leave the city of Beijing, but that he was not allowed to leave the country as he was accused of various crimes including pornography, bigamy and foreign currency exchange. Although most of these charges, and the truth therein, remain unclear.

Ai was commissioned as the artistic consultant for the design of the stadium for the 2008 summer olympics in Beijing. He worked in collaboration with Herzog and De Meuron to design one of the most stunning and intricate displays the world has ever seen at any Olympic event in history. In 2008 Ai won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards and in 2009 he was one of GQ (Germany) men of the year. In 2013, he received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.


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