After months of detention in a Beijing prison the Chinese government today released famed Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei on bail. Ai, arguably China’s most well known artist, was taken into custody in April amid a crackdown on dissidents and activists across China.
This is breaking news for the art world but it’s also great news to my ears personally. I’ve been moved by his work and intelligent dissent for quite some time, and became even more interested in his work last year while I was working in China on this project and had my first brush with censorship by not being able to share my work socially, using YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter from China due to the censorship of those services. Also of importance to me, and specifically why I’m sharing this here as a more personal note, is that several of Ai’s closest American friends are my dear friends. I’ve been watching that whole circle of friends/relatives live on the edge of their seats in fear for his well being for months. It’s been horrible. It’s an understatement therefore I’m beyond relieved for everyone involved.
Lastly, if you’re not familiar with Ai Wei Wei’s work, please get familiar. He has emerged as perhaps THE gigantic creative voice coming out of China, and in addition to being a photographer, creates… too many amazing things to mention here (so read his wikipedia page). He is perhaps most well known as the designer of the “Bird’s Nest” stadium that was home to the Beijing Olympics, his Sunflower Seed installation at the Tate in London, and his Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads currently on display at Pulitzer Fountain at Grand Army Plaza in NYC, on 59th Street at the southwest corner of Central Park. Do not miss this if you live in, or are passing through NYC.
More info on Ai’s release here from the Guardian UK.