Modern artists to know: Ai Weiwei


Multifaceted Ai Wewei is perhaps China’s most famous practicing artist. Unbound by conventions, Weiwei is also an architect, activist and filmmaker.

Weiwei’s father was exiled from China during the anti-rightist movement. The family was allowed to return after Mao Zedong’s death, and Weiwei studied film in Beijing before moving to the United States in 1981.

His notable works range from musical productions to large scale architecture: he was the artistic consultant for the design on the Beijing National Stadium.

His work is sometimes seen as controversial or downright disrespectful. Clearly, Weiwei is unafraid to voice his views, whether it be through art or Twitter.

His open criticism of the Communist Party has led him to trouble, but even after his arrest in 2011, he persists.

One of his works is an antique vase from the Han dynasty with the Coca Cola label painted in big, bold letters on it.

The simple piece proves Weiwei’s ability to communicate complex ideas with concise symbolism; here, he has addressed the destruction of culture that results from a rapidly modernizing, consumerist society.