Skip to main content

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei (ī´ wāwā), 1957–, Chinese artist, architect, filmmaker, and political activist. He is the son of poet Ai Ch'ing, who was internally exiled (1958–76) to work camps with his family. Ai subsequently studied at the Beijing Film Institute, began to make avant-garde art, and became politically active. From 1981 to 1993 he lived in New York City and studied at the Parsons Inst. of Design. In the mid-1990s he and two other artists published an influential trilogy of books on avant-garde Chinese artists. Ai began to attract international attention with such works as the photo tryptich Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995) and his reassembled Ming and Ch'ing artifacts, which embody his recurring themes of destruction and recreation. He opened an art atelier and architectural practice and helped design the Beijing Olympics "Bird's Nest" stadium (2008), but soon disassociated himself from the games. His best-known works include the backpacks and text installations (2009) commemorating the children who died in poorly built schools in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the Tate Modern's installation (2010) of millions of porcelain sunflower seeds.

Ai began writing a blog in 2005, which by 2008 had become a venue for political satire and dissidence. In 2009 a severe police beating required emergency surgery; the next year he was placed under house arrest. In 2011 the government razed his Shanghai studio and he was arrested, ostensibly for tax evasion, detained secretly for several weeks, then had his travel restricted. He was fined $2.4 million for tax evasion. In 2012 the government revoked his business license, forcing his architectural firm to close. Ai created six half-scale fiberglass dioramas depicting his detention; smuggled out of China, they were exhibited in Venice in 2013. A multimedia exhibition made for Alcatraz (2014–15) focuses on human rights and on prisoners of conscience and features large portraits of prisoners made with small plastic bricks.

See L. Ambrozy, ed., Ai Weiwei's Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006–2009 (2011) and L. Warsh, ed., Weiwei-isms (2012); study by K. Smith et al. (2009); B. Martin, Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (2013); A. Klayman, dir. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (documentary, 2012).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ai Weiwei." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ai Weiwei." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 20, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ai-weiwei

"Ai Weiwei." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved November 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ai-weiwei

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.