Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary social and political art activist known to most as the artistic mind behind the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics. Described as a “dissident artist with a leading voice”, Ai Weiwei’s upcoming exhibition “Ai Weiwei. Libero” at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi is both a retrospective of his previous works and also an avenue by which to foster new conversation on the ideas of freedom and justice. Much of his work is contentious, forcing together the traditional and the modern while also combating the idea of censorship.
Ai Weiwei is the son of renowned Chinese poet, Ai Qing. Ai Qing was exiled by Mao Zedong’s communist regime in the 1950s for his role as a social critic and for his support of other artists who used their work to denounce the increasingly repressive Chinese government. It is unsurprising, with such a lineage, that Ai Weiwei became a composer of works made to encourage dialogue on topics such as emancipation, modern ‘excessivism’ and corruption. An example of his activism is his work on the Sichuan earthquake scandal. During the news coverage of the devastating Sichuan earthquake that took more than 70,000 lives in Central China, Ai Weiwei found out that almost 5,000 children had perished but had not been officially announced deceased. He galvanised the community to lead an investigation into the lack of government transparency. He worked alongside Chinese activists Tan Zuoren and Xie Yuhui, who published the “Independent Investigative Report by Citizens” that documented evidence revealing government misconduct at the local level and that many schools had faulty architecture making them susceptible to collapse. Ai Weiwei spoke out against the cover-up and created numerous artistic projects to give a voice to the students he believed were ignored by their own government. For his courage he was beaten by police, jailed and then fined millions of dollars. Despite this, Ai Weiwei has never allowed himself to be silenced and continues to be the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.
His work, branching all over the world, has made many uncomfortable but Ai Weiwei takes pride in the fact that his work impacts and disturbs because it is in this that he sees the true value of art. He seamlessly intertwines the complex political conversations that afflict humanity today within all of his art, using his acclaim as an artist to push forth the values that are meaningful to him.
Check out this interview on Ai Weiwei by Louisiana Channel on Youtube.
For more on the Beijing Stadium check out Telegraph article here.