The Chinese Avant-Garde Artist Who Has Inspired Many People In China And The West – Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei is probably one of the most well-known Chinese avant-garde artists. From photography and installation to sculpture and architecture, his practice involves many aspects. He was designated as the assistant director of the household TV show A Native of Beijing in New York back in 1993, and assigned as the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics.
Normally, a celebrity like him would choose his words and actions carefully, but Ai Weiwei is clearly the exception. “If there is ever going to be something left on my tomb stone, I want it to be like this: a typical example of split personality, which reflects all the flaws of that age,” he said in an interview.
Born in 1957, Ai Weiwei is son of the famous contemporary poet Ai Qing. During the Cultural Revolution the family was exiled, and as a result Ai spent his childhood in extremely harsh conditions where education was almost non-existent. However, his father’s poetic artistry and the family’s precarious political situation were to have a deeply profound effect on him.
What makes Ai Weiwei different from many other artists is his unique life experience. In different life phases, he has chosen various ways to express himself. His paintings first caught the public attention in 1979 when he joined The Stars, a subversive political group of artists who wanted to reintroduce the idea of art as self-expression.
1981, Ai quit school at the Beijing Film Academy and moved to the US to study at the Parsons School for Design under artist Sean Scully. He dropped out again after six months, and instead tried to make a living as a street artist in New York. Photography is one of the skills that he learnt during this period.
Later, Ai returned to China and experimented artistically in many other areas, such as sculpture and architecture. He believes in simplicity and disagrees with the idea of architecture with an emotional tendency.
Ai Weiwei has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights. “I was born to be a rebel. This may be related to my father. He told me to be a free man.” Some of his most recent works are simple actions designed to call attention to some of these issues.
As an artist, Ai Weiwei has inspired many people in the West and in China, both inside and outside the art world. He reminds us of the power of visual art to move us as individuals, and sometimes entire nations, to action. Ai’s work underscores the idea that art may have the power, and even the responsibility, to change society.