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China • Beijing • born in 1957
Ai Weiwei (Chinese. 艾未未; 28 Aug 1957, Beijing, China) is a Chinese painter, sculptor and a political activist, who often expresses sharp criticism to the of China. The fight against government is in Weiwei's blood: he was born in the family of the famous poet AI Qing, who was sent into exile with his family because of his work. They were only able to return to Beijing after almost 20 years, when Mao died, and pretty soon the name of Weiwei began to be heard in the artistic circle. Even then, his work as well as the work of his friends, were political in nature. The young artists participated in the democratic marches and rallies together. In 1981, Weiwei moved to the USA, where he lived for 11 years, gradually gaining knowledge at various art institutions, improving his level of English and constantly practicing photography. His first solo exhibition was held in 1988 in New York City. But in a few years he had to return to Beijing because of his father's illness.

1999 was the turning point in Weiwei's life began in 1999, as he was invited to represent China at the Venice Biennale. He loudly announced himself on the international art stage and his work began to attract much attention. The Chinese authorities could not leave that unnoticed. First, they tried to limit Weiwei's communication with the rest of the world. When his personal blog was shut down by the government, he moved to social networks and continued to write frank and provocative things. He believes that an artist must constantly keep connected with one's audience and "to report what you have in mind and why you do it".

But Weiwei faced the most serious confrontation with the authorities after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. In his Twitter, the artist posted a number of very emotional messages, which blamed the government for the deaths of thousands of children under the rubble of the poorly constructed schools. The authorities tried to hush up the scandal and did not publish the number of victims of the earthquake. Then Weiwei conducted his own investigation and published the collected data (according to the latest estimates more than 5,000 died). Shortly thereafter, the artist was beaten by police, and he was in the hospital with a brain hemorrhage.

In subsequent years, Weiwei was placed under house arrest, he was not allowed to leave the country, his home and his studio were under control of cameras and listening devices, he was put in prison and his house was demolished. But the artist is not going to change his beliefs. He constantly works on new projects, makes political statements and draws attention to humanitarian disasters and crises. Ai Weiwei helps to find a voice and become visible to those who live in poverty and oppression.

Peculiar features of Ai Weiwei's art: Almost all his work is associated with China. Many of his artworks one way or another are related to the culture and history of his native country. And these works may seem very simple if you do not understand their connotation and context. Trying to convey his thoughts to the public, Weiwei is merciless. He splits and paints over vintage Chinese vases, he carves out from a piece of marble a "monument" to the surveillance camera, he compresses into a huge cube ton of puerh tea and turns it into sculpture. He deprives the objects of their function as he puts new meanings into them. Offering the public to walk on the "carpet" of the porcelain sunflower seeds, each of which is made and hand-painted by Chinese workers, Weiwei draws attention to how the world prizes Chinese porcelain, while the people who make it work hard for pennies.

Famous artworks of Ai Weiwei: Sunflower SeedsRiver CrabsSurveillance Camera, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, Trail.

Written by Evgeniya Sidelnikova

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