Ai Weiwei Signs Book Deal For A Memoir To Be Published in 2017

Readers can expect a thrilling tell-all autobiography.

Ai Weiwei with his installation Straight, Royal Academy of Arts, 2015. Photo: © Dave Parry Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts, London.
Ai Weiwei with his installation Straight, Royal Academy of Arts, 2015. Photo: © Dave Parry Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts, London.

The Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei has signed a book deal with the Crown Publishing Group for a memoir which will come out in 2017. The publisher declined to reveal how much the deal is worth.

According to a statement cited by the New York Times, the artist and dissident will present “an extraordinary cultural history of China over the past 100 years, told through the prism of both his own life story and that of his father, Ai Qing.”

In a statement, the artist said “I write about my father, his generation, and my own experience, our struggle for individual freedom and self-expression in this old society.”

Ai Weiwei, Surveillance Camera (2010). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

Ai Weiwei, Surveillance Camera (2010).
Photo: Heritage Auctions.

The artist’s tumultuous life and career includes a childhood spent in exile after his father Ai Qing—a trained painter and one of China’s most celebrated poets—was sentenced to hard labor in the Gobi Desert by the Mao regime. Ai’s father was assigned a job as a public toilet cleaner and the family lived in what was nothing more than a hole in the ground.

Ai will recount how he followed his father’s footsteps to become an artist, and moved to New York in the 1980s to develop his practice.

The book will also address Ai’s political activism, explaining how he became a fully-fledged dissident and outspoken free-speech campaigner, including an account of his well-publicized but perplexing 81-day incarceration by Chinese authorities in 2011, and subsequent house arrest.

Detail of Ai Weiwei's S.A.C.R.E.D. (2012) at London's Royal Academy of Arts, 2015.Photo: Lorena Muñoz-Alonso

Detail of Ai Weiwei’s S.A.C.R.E.D. (2012) at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, 2015.
Photo: Lorena Muñoz-Alonso

“The history of totalitarianism is one characterized by the state’s continuous attempts to destroy individual memories,” he explained in the statement.

In line with Ai’s art installations, social media expressions, and blog posts, readers can expect a deeply political and enthralling autobiography from one of today’s most famous, influential, and misunderstood artists.

News of the artist’s potentially controversial tell-all book comes just as Ai’s uneasy relationship to Chinese authorities is gradually improving. Three months ago, the government returned the artist’s passport allowing him to travel freely and attend his international exhibition openings for the first time in four years.


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