Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei
b. 1957, Beijing
Exhibition organizer, artist
Not long after his graduation from the Beijing Film Academy, in 1981 Ai Weiwei moved to New York City where he lived until 1993. Through exposure to art museums and contemporary exhibition practices in New York, he formed the idea of establishing his own art gallery and art magazine in Beijing. He then became the publisher and chief editor of Heipi shu (Black-cover Book, 1994), Baipi shu (White-cover Book, 1995) and Huipi shu (Grey-cover Book, 1997), a series of privately published journals focusing on emerging installation and performance artists, who would not get a chance otherwise to be exposed in the Chinese media. The three ‘books’ included translations of modernist and contemporary art documents. Since the late 1990s, Ai has been one of the directors of China Art Archives and Warehouse, a contemporary art exhibition space in Beijing (see van Dijk, Hans). In 2000, he co-organized with Feng Boyi the exhibition Bu hezuo fangshi (Uncooperative Method) for which the English translation of ‘Fuck Off’ was used. With about fifty artists, including Ai Weiwei himself, the show tried to expose current trends of contemporary art in China of the 1990s, from performance to installation, from painting to video and photography.
As an artist, Ai Weiwei’s work is often related to his antique collecting. The major theme in many of his works deals with issues of authenticity, displacement of meaning of reproduction of a traditional object in a changed form of existence.
This is the case of his porcelain- and furniture-related works such as Blue and White after Kangxi, Qianlong and Yongzhen (1997) which are replicas of the finest crafts in China’s porcelain tradition, as well as the Table series (1996) where traditional furniture styles and shapes are subverted and reassembled. Ai Weiwei has exhibited extensively worldwide featuring in shows such as ‘The Star: Ten Years’ (Hanart Gallery, Hong Kong, 1989), ‘Configura 2-Dialog der Kultur’ (Germany, 1995), the 48th Biennale of Venice (Italy, 1999) and ‘New Zone—Chinese Art’ at the Zecheta National Gallery of Art (Warsaw, 2003).
Chang, Tsong-zung et al. (1989). The Stars: Ten Years. Hong Kong: Hanart 2 Gallery.
De Matté, Monica (1999). ‘Ai Weiwei’. In La Biennale di Venezia, 48a Esposizione d’Arte, d’Apertutto, Aperto Over All. Marsilio: La Biennale di Venezia, 122–23.
Hua, Yianxue et al. (eds), (2000). Fuck Off (exhibition catalogue). N.p.
Merewether, Charles (ed.) (2003). Ai Weiwei, Works: Beijing 1993–2003. Beijing: Timezone 8.
Pachnicke, Peter and Mensch, Bernhard (2002). CHINA Tradition und Moderne. Oberhausen: Ludwig Galerie-Schloss Oberhausen.
Zeng, Xiaojun, Ai, Weiwei and Xu, Bing (1994). The Red Flag—the Black Cover Book, 43–51.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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