Ai Weiwei, *1957

Ai Weiwei, Photo Text Portrait: 28 August 1957. Textportrait Ai Weiwei by Ralph Ueltzhoeffer 2011, April 18. Biography Text (April 18, 2011 by Ai Weiwei (born 28 August 1957) is a Chinese artist and activist, who is also active in architecture, curating, photography, film, and social and cultural criticism.[1][2] Ai collaborated with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuronas the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics.[3] In addition to showing his art he has investigated government corruption and cover-ups. He was particularly focused at exposing an alleged corruption scandal in the construction of Sichuan schools that collapsed during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. He intensively uses the internet to communicate with people all over China, especially the young generation.[4] On 3 April 2011 police detained him at Beijing airport, and his studio in the capital was sealed off in an apparent crackdown by the Chinese authorities on political dissidents.[5][6] Life and workAi Weiwei’s father was Chinese poet Ai Qing, who was denounced during the Anti-Rightist Movement and in 1958 sent to a labour camp in Xinjiang with his wife, Gao Ying.[7] Ai Weiwei was one year old at the time and lived in Shihezi for 16 years. In 1975 the family returned to Beijing.[8] Ai Weiwei is married to artist Lu Qing.[7] In 1978, Ai enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy and attended school with Chinese directors Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou.[9] In 1978, he was one of the founders of the early avant garde art group the “Stars”, together with Ma Desheng, Wang Keping, Huang Rui, Li Shuang, Zhong Acheng and Qu Leilei. The group disbanded in 1983.[10] Yet Ai Weiwei participated in regular Stars group shows, The Stars: Ten Years, 1989 (Hanart Gallery, Hong-Hong and Taipei), and a retrospective exhibition in Beijing in 2007:Origin Point (Today Art Museum, Beijing). From 1981 to 1993, he lived in the United States, mostly in New York, creating conceptual art by altering readymade objects.[10] While in New York, he studied at Parsons School of Design.[11] f In 1993, Ai returned to China because his father became ill.[12] Back in Beijing, he helped establish the experimental artists’ Beijing East Village and published a series of three books about this new generation of artists: Black Cover Book (1994), White Cover Book (1995), and Gray Cover Book (1997).[13] Ai Weiwei’s contribution to the Documenta 12 in Kassel 2007Ai Weiwei is co-founder and Artistic Director of China Art Archives & Warehouse (CAAW), founded in 1997, Beijing. It is a contemporary art archive and experimental gallery that concentrates on experimental art from the People’s Republic of China, initiates and facilitates exhibitions and other forms of introductions inside and outside China.[14] The building is designed by Ai Weiwei. MoMA Projects by Elaine Dannheiser: Ralph Ueltzhoeffer (2011). Template (2007) after collapseIn 1999, Ai moved to Caochangdi, in the northeast of Beijing, and built a studio house, his first architectural project. Since he was getting more involved with architecture, he founded the architecture studio FAKE Design, in 2003.[15] In 2000, he co-curated the art exhibition Fuck Off with curator Feng Boyi in Shanghai, China.[16] Ai Weiwei and HHF Architects designed a private residence in upstate New York in 2006. According to the New York Times, the house, completed in 2008, is “extraordinarily refined” and designed to incorporate a large, contemporary Chinese artcollection.[17][18] In 2010, Wallpaper magazine nominated the home for its Wallpaper Design Awards category: Best New Private House.[19] In 2008 he curated the architecture project Ordos 100 in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia. He invited 100 architects from all over the world (29 countries) to participate in this project.[20] Ai curated the exhibition The State of Things, together with Belgian artist Luc Tuymans. It was shown at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels (18/10/2009 – 10/01/2010) and at the National Art Museum in Beijing (01/05/2010 -30/05/2010).[21] On 15 March 2010 he took part in Digital Activism in China: A discussion between Ai Weiwei, Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter) and Richard MacManus, hosted by The Paley Media Center in New York.[22] [edit] ExhibitionsAi’s artwork has been exhibited in China, Japan, Korea, Australia, United Kingdom, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Israel, Brazil and the United States. Ai Weiwei’s work was included in the 48th Venice Biennale in Italy (1999), 1st Guangzhou Triennale in China (2002), 1st Monpellier Biennial of Chinese Contemporary Art in France (2005), The 2nd Guangzhou Triennial (2005), Busan Biennial in Korea (2006), The 5th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Australia (2006), Documenta 12 in Germany (2007), Liverpool Biennial International 08 in the United Kingdom (2008), 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale and the 29th Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil (2010). Fairytale is the title of Ai Weiwei’s contribution for Documenta 12 in 2007. For this project Ai Weiwei brought 1001 people from all over China to a small town in Germany called Kassel. They were chosen through an open invitation he posted on his blog.[23] Ai even designed clothes, luggage and a temporary home in an old textile factory. He let them wander around the city during the exhibition time of three months. The participants were divided into five groups that each stayed in Kassel for eight days. According to Philip Tinari the primary design object here is not the clothing or suitcases but the participants’ experiences, even their spirits.[15] During the exhibition his monumental outdoor sculpture titled Template, made of wooden doors and windows from destroyed Ming and Qing Dynasty houses (1368–1911), collapsed after a storm.[24] From October 2009 to January 2010 Ai Weiwei exhibited So Sorry at Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany. This solo exhibition showed Ai Weiwei’s largest retrospective to date.[25] The title refers to the thousands of apologies expressed recently by governments, industries, and financial corporations worldwide in an effort to make up for tragedies and wrongdoings – though often withhout shouldering the consequences or the desire to acknowledge let alone repair. Saying sorry – or not saying it – is in the headlines everywhere and thus also in China.[26] For this show Ai Weiwei created the installation Remembering on Haus der Kunst’s façade. It was made out of 9000 children’s backpacks. They spell out the sentence ‘She lived happily for seven years in this world’ in Chinese characters. This is a quote from a mother whose child died in the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. Ai Weiwei said: “The idea to use backpacks came from my visit to Sichuan after the earthquake in May 2008. During the earthquake many schools collapsed. Thousands of young students lost their lives, and you could see bags and study material everywhere. Then you realize individual life, media, and the lives of the students are serving very different purposes. The lives of the students disappeared within the state propaganda, and very soon everybody will forget everything.”[27] On 25 July 2009 Ai Weiwei opened his solo show According to What? at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, Japan. This exhibition presented 26 works, most made over the past decade.[28] In December 2009, Ai Weiwei had a small exhibition at the Comme des Garcons store in Hong Kong.[29] From March to September 2010, Ai exhibited Barely Something, an exhibition curated by Roger M. Buergel, the director of Documenta12, at the Museum DKM in Duisburg, Germany.[30] Sunflower Seeds, 2010In October 2010, Sunflower Seeds was installed at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall, London. The work consists of one hundred million porcelain “seeds,” each individually hand-painted in the town of Jingdezhen by 1,600 Chinese artisans, and scattered over a large area of the exhibition hall.[31] The artist was keen for visitors to walk across and roll in the work to experience and contemplate the essence of his comment on mass consumption, Chinese industry, famine and collective work. However, on 16 October, Tate Modern stopped people from walking on the exhibit due to health liability concerns over the porcelain dust.[32] In February 2011, a 220-pound (100 kg) pile from Sunflower Seeds sold for $559,394 (well above its high estimate of $195,000) at Sotheby’s in London, weeks after Ai Weiwei’s studio was destroyed by the government.[33]
Detail of Sunflower Seeds, 2010[edit] AwardsIn March 2010 Ai Weiwei received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the Faculty of Politics and Social Science, University of Gent, Belgium.[34] In September 2010 he received Das Glas der Vernunft (The Prism of Reason), Kassel Citizen Award, Kassel, Germany.[35] Ai Weiwei was ranked 13 in ArtReview’s guide to the 100 most powerful figures in contemporary art: Power 100, 2010.[36] [edit] Beijing National Stadium The Beijing National Stadium at night during the 2008 Summer OlympicsAi was commissioned as the artistic consultant for design, collaborating with the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, for the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics, also known as the “Bird’s Nest.”[37] Although ignored by the Chinese media, he had voiced his anti-Olympics views.[2] He later distanced himself from the project, saying, “I’ve already forgotten about it. I turn down all the demands to have photographs with it,” saying it is part of a “pretend smile” of bad taste.[38][39] In August 2007 he also accused those choreographing the Olympic opening ceremony, including Steven Spielberg and Zhang Yimou, of failing to live up to their responsibility as artists. Ai said “It’s disgusting. I don’t like anyone who shamelessly abuses their profession, who makes no moral judgment.”[40] In February 2008, Spielberg withdrew from his role as advisor to the 2008 Summer Olympics.[41][42] When asked why he participated in the designing of the Bird’s Nest, Ai replied “I did it because I love design.”[43] [edit] Sichuan earthquake student casualties investigationOn 15 December 2008, Ai Weiwei supported an investigation into student casualties in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake started by another Chinese artist. The investigation aimed to compile a list of students killed in the earthquake by 12 May 2009, the earthquake’s first anniversary.[44] As of 14 April 2009, the list had accumulated 5,385 names.[45] Ai published the collected names as well as numerous articles documenting the investigation on his blog which was shut down by Chinese authorities in May 2009.[46] Ai Weiwei suffered headaches and claimed he had difficulty concentrating on his work since returning from Chengdu in August 2009, where he was beaten by the police for trying to testify for Tan Zuoren, a fellow investigator of the shoddy construction and student casualties in the earthquake. On 14 September 2009, Ai was diagnosed to be suffering internal bleeding in a hospital in Munich, Germany, and the doctor arranged for emergency brain surgery.[47] The cerebral hemorrhage is believed to be linked to the police attack.[48][49] According to the Financial Times, in an attempt to force Ai to leave the country, two accounts used by him had been hacked in a sophisticated attack on Google in China dubbed Operation Aurora, their contents read and copied; his bank accounts were investigated by state security agents who claimed he was under investigation for “unspecified suspected crimes”.[50] [edit] Shanghai studio controversyIn November 2010, Ai was placed under house arrest by the Chinese police. He said this was to prevent the planned party to mark the demolition of his newly built Shanghai studio from taking place.[51] The building was designed and built by Ai upon encouragement and persuasion from a “high official [from Shanghai]” as part of a new cultural area designated by Shanghai Municipal authorities; Ai would have used it as a studio and to teach architecture courses. But now Ai has been accused of erecting the structure without the necessary planning permission and a demolition notice has been ordered, even though, Ai said, officials had been extremely enthusiastic, and the entire application and planning process was “under government supervision”. According to Ai, a number of artists were invited to build new studios in this area of Shanghai because officials wanted to create a cultural area.[52] On 3 November 2010 Ai said the government had informed him two months earlier that the newly completed studio would be knocked down because it was illegal. Ai complained that this was unfair, as he was “the only one singled out to have my studio destroyed.” The Guardian said that Ai had made a number of documentaries on subjects which touched the raw nerves of Shanghai municipal authorities, including Shanghai resident Feng Zhenghu, who lived in forced exile for three months in Narita Airport, Tokyo.[52] In the end, the party took place without Weiwei’s presence; his supporters feasted on river crab, an allusion to “harmony”, and a euphemism used to jeer official censorship. Ai was released from house arrest the next day.[53] Like other activists and intellectuals, Ai was prevented from leaving China in late 2010. Ai suggested that the authorities wanted to prevent him from attending the ceremony in December 2010 to award the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to fellow dissident Liu Xiaobo.[54] Ai said that he had not been invited to the ceremony, and was attempting to travel to Koreafor a meeting when he was told that he could not leave for reasons of national security.[55] In the evening of 11 January 2011, Ai’s studio was demolished in a surprise move by the local government.[56][57] [edit] 2011 ArrestOn 24 February, amid an online campaign for Middle East-style Jasmine Rallies in major Chinese cities by overseas dissidents, Ai posted on his Twitter account: “I didn’t care about jasmine at first, but people who are scared by jasmine sent out information about how harmful jasmine is often, which makes me realize that jasmine is what scares them the most. What a jasmine!”[58][59] On 3 April, Ai was arrested just before catching a flight to Hong Kong and his studio facilities were searched.[60] A police contingent of approximately 50 officers came to his studio, threw a cordon around it and searched the premises. They took away laptops and the hard drive from the main computer; they detained Ai, eight staff members and Ai’s wife, Lu Qing. Police also visited the mother of Ai’s two year-old son.[61] Analysts and other activists said Ai had been widely thought to be untouchable, but Nicholas Bequelin from Human Rights Watch suggested that his arrest, calculated to send the message that no one would be immune, must have had the approval of someone in the top leadership.[62] While state media originally reported on 6 April that Ai was arrested at the airport because “his departure procedures were incomplete,”[63] the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on 7 April that Ai was arrested under investigation for alleged economic crimes.[64] Then, on 8 April, police returned to Ai’s workshop, “this time targeting the finance office.”[65] On 9 April, Ai’s accountant, as well as studio partner Liu Zhenggang and driver Zhang Jingsong, disappeared[66], while Ai’s assistant Wen Tao has remained missing since Ai’s arrest on 3 April.[67] International governments, human rights groups and art institutions, among others, have called for Ai’s release, while Chinese officials have yet to notify Ai’s family of his whereabouts.[68] [edit] Investigation of Ai Weiwei’s crimesAi Weiwei was under arrest for tax evasion, bigamy and spreading indecent images on the internet. It is reported that the government holds substantial evidence to the above crimes and Ai Weiwei is cooperating and willing to confess.[69] At the moment, Ai Weiwei has admitted that he has made copies and sold two of the twelve famous Old Summer Palace sculptures in 2010, making 120 million dollars from them. He was also selling 100 million ceramic sunflower seeds on Taobao, and it was calculated that he evaded 60 million yuan of tax. [70] [edit] Global protests and calls for immediate release”1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei” is an international global protest organized by Creative Time of New York that calls for artists to bring chairs to Chinese embassies and consulates around the world on April 17, 2011, at 1 p.m. local time “to sit peacefully in support of the artist’s immediate release.”[71][72] [edit] Václav HavelOn April 13 2011, a group of European intellectual led by Václav Havel had issued an open letter to Wen Jiabao, condemning the arrest and demanding the immediate release of Ai Weiwei. The signatories include Ivan Klima, Jirí Gruša, Jáchym Topol,Elfriede Jelinek, Adam Michnik, Adam Zagajewski, Helmuth Frauendorfer, and Chinese poet in excile Bei Lin(Chinese:??), who drafted the open letter.[73] [edit] Online petitionAn online petition started by Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the International Council of Museums, who claimed to have ” some of the largest online museum communities in the world…(and) our collective millions of Facebook fans and Twitter followers” against Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China has collected more than 90,000 signatures, calling for the release of Ai Weiwei[74][75][76][77] [edit] Hong KongOn April 17, 2011, about 150 protesters, including members of Hong Kong artists, holding placards with photos of Ai Weiwei, demanded his immediate release.[78] [edit] GermanyIn Minden, Germany, 12 artists staged a sit-in on chairs in front of the city’s opera house.[79] [edit] TaipeiTaipei Contemporary Art Center on April 9 2011 issuing a statement calling for the release of Ai Weiwei and other Chinese dissidents.[80]

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