Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s work is an audacious blend of old and new, Western and Eastern, serious and irreverent. He has translated the readymade into a new artistic language, fusing neolithic pottery, fourteenth-century doors and seventeenth-century temple beams into surprising, at times shocking sculptures. He has documented his disdain for authority by giving the finger to the Tiananmen in Beijing, the Reichstag in Berlin and the White House in Washington - Study of Perspective (1993-2005).
Ai Weiwei's father Ai Qing, one of China's most important modern poets, himself spent several years detained and in exile until his full rehabilitation in 1979 because of his political and artistic ideas - the Ai Qing Memorial in the Jinhua Qing Cultural Park, Zhejiang, created by Ai Weiwei, stands in his honour.
What marks Ai as a truly twenty-first-century artist is precisely his multiplicity of roles: not just artist, designer and architect - he provided Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron with the inspiration for their celebrated Beijing National Stadium, home to the 2008 Olympics - he is also curator, publisher and blogger.
Although his outspoken writings on topics such as art, urbanism and politics have brought him unwanted attention from the State and led to his recent detainment, they have made him an inspiration for an entire generation of Beijing artists and generated excitement far beyond China's borders.
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