(b Beijing, May 13, 1957; official birthdate Aug 28, 1957).
Chinese conceptual artist, curator and architect. Son of the poet Ai Qing (Jiang Haicheng) (1910–96). For 25 years Ai Weiwei was consistently one of the most innovative figures in China’s art world. He helped direct the course of Chinese art, not only through his own artistic production, but also through his curatorial, editorial and design projects, and his encouragement of younger artists.
In 1978 Ai Weiwei enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy. His public career as an artist began when he participated in the first Stars group show (1979), an unofficial exhibition hung prominently on a fence next to the National Art Gallery in Beijing. Because the exhibition—and the heavy-handed reaction of the police—drew the attention of foreign reporters, the Stars gained fame as China’s first well-known post-Cultural Revolution dissident artists.
In 1981 Ai Weiwei moved to the USA where he lived mostly in New York, returning to Beijing in 1993. While in New York he studied briefly at the Parsons School of Design and the Art Students League and was exposed to original works by artists who proved to be important influences: Jasper Johns, Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. As a result he began experimenting with the concept of the ready-made, a process that continues throughout his subsequent work. Characteristic of his early works, ...