Dissident artist Ai Weiwei is famous for conceptual artworks that challenge authority and explore the links between the contemporary world and traditional Chinese culture. His photographs, sculptures, films, performances, and installations earned him ire from the Chinese government, which imprisoned him for 81 days in 2011 and razed his studio in 2018. Ai left the country in 2015. His most lauded works include Sunflower Seeds (2010)—for which the artist scattered 100 million porcelain “seeds” (hand-painted by Chinese artisans) across the floor of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall—and Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), in which he destroyed the eponymous cultural artifact. Urns are frequent motifs throughout Ai’s practice, which often comments on mass consumption, individuality, censorship, and interconnections among contemporary cultures. Ai studied at the Beijing Film Academy before attending Parsons School of Design, and he has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Copenhagen, Beijing, London, and other cities. His work belongs in the collections of multiple institutions, including Centre Pompidou, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate, among others. Ai served as an artistic consultant for the design of the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His work has sold for millions of dollars at auction, yet given the diversity of his practice, many of his pieces sell for four or five figures on the secondary market.
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