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Spotlight Artist: Ai Weiwei

Art Code: Art take Courage

Political Art Topic: Censorship


Ai Weiwei (Chinese: 艾未未; pinyin: Ài Wèiwèi, English pronunciation (help·info); born 28 August 1957 in Beijing) is a Chinese contemporary artistand activist. His father's (Ai Qing) original surname was written Jiang (蔣).[1][2][3] Ai collaborated with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron as the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics.[4] As a political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government's stance on democracy and human rights. He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular the Sichuan schools corruption scandal following the collapse of so-called "tofu-dreg schools" in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.[5] In 2011, following his arrest at Beijing Capital International Airport on 3 April, he was held for 81 days without any official charges being filed; officials alluded to their allegations of "economic crimes".[6]


Key Characteristics

  • Work often deals with government surveillance or criticism of the government

  • Combines ideas from Conceptual art and Minimalist art

  • Often functions as a facilitator of the art, not necessarily making work by hand.


Essential Questions

  • What does it mean when we say, "Art takes courage?"

  • What role does censorship play in the history of art? Contemporary art?

  • Would you be willing to suffer persecution for making your art?

  • How important is it for an individual artist to make the actual artwork?

  • Is Western art inherently different from Eastern art in the past? What about now?


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