Ai Weiwei Is Back in the US After Eight Years

He only had tender things to say about New York.

Ai Weiwei. Photo Matej Divizna/Getty Images.
Ai Weiwei. Photo Matej Divizna/Getty Images.

It’s official: Ai Weiwei is back in the US.

In a 42-minute Facebook Live interview with New York Times correspondent Andrew Jacobs, Weiwei sat down to discuss his forthcoming joint-exhibition with Andy Warhol at Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum. “Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei,” which opens this Saturday, June 4, reviews the two artists’ oeuvres and their respective impacts on contemporary life.

Much of Jacobs and Weiwei’s conversation touched on the political maelstrom surrounding the artist. Activism, after all, comes part and parcel with the Chinese dissident’s legacy. But the pair also sauntered into sentimental territory—namely his return to New York City. The artist, who lived in the Lower East Side for a decade, conceded that his old haunt had changed since he last visited.

Even still, Weiwei only had tender things to say about the big apple overall:

To walk down the street of New York after so many years, I start to realize how great the city is. There’s no other city like it. There’s such a density. From the beginning in the planning of the city, you see it’s a complete and modern idea.

All those avenues and streets numbered, that go all the way through it. You really feel you’re part of the city because you can easily locate yourself physically and intellectually and psychologically. You understand your position and other peoples’ location. It’s quite emotional.

Ai Weiwei, At the Museum of Modern Art, 1987, from the New York Photographs series 1983–93, collection of Ai Weiwei, © Ai Weiwei; Andy Warhol artwork © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Ai Weiwei, At the Museum of Modern Art, 1987, from the New York Photographs series 1983–93, collection of Ai Weiwei, © Ai Weiwei; Andy Warhol artwork © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

The interview proceeded to identify affinities and differences between Warhol and Weiwei, the latter of whom characterized the pop artist as a “master of communication.” Weiwei maintained that in relation to Warhol, he comes from a “completely different background.”

For the full interview, head on over to the New York Times’s Facebook page.


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