Ai Weiwei Opens First Solo Exhibition in China Since 2011

The Chinese media responded positively to the show's non-political content.

Ai Weiwei. Courtesy Center for the Creative Arts.

Ai Weiwei has opened a his first solo exhibition in China since 2011. The eponymously titled exhibition “Ai Weiwei” opened at Galeria Continua at the Tang Contemporary Art Center in 798, the art district in Beijing, on the last weekend in May.

The exhibition has been well received by the Chinese media, the New York Times reports. It had been approved by the authorities, but was re-scheduled to prevent it from coinciding with the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 on June 4 (see Draconian Landlords Force Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Museum to Relocate).

Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (2010)Photo: Phillips

Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (2010)
Photo: Phillips

In comparison to his previous shows the subject matter has no political undertones, a development which Chinese media has viewed as a positive.

The Global Times, which has been very critical of Ai in the past, praised the exhibition saying he should consider himself lucky among the dissidents and for being given a chance to “turn over the page.”

Forbidden from leaving China since 2011 Ai has been living and working out of his Beijing compound, and only exhibiting internationally, with considerable success (see Ai Weiwei, Darling Dissident, Presents Largest Ever Show in Berlin Spanning 32,300 Square Feet and Ai Weiwei Takes Over Downton Abbey-esque Estate).

His previous outspoken criticism of the Chinese Government lead to his being beaten by police and later “disappeared” for three months, in 2011, leading to international cries of “Where is Ai Weiwei?”

Chinese authorities have infamously confiscated his passport following his detention (see China Can’t Even Deal With a Pro-Ai Weiwei T-Shirt).

The whole story was captured and widely broadcast in the feature length documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012). The film followed Ai through his protests following unreported deaths of children during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, and human rights abuses surrounding the construction of the Bird’s Nest stadium for the Beijing 2008 Oympics.

“It’s surprising,” Ai told the NYT upon being asked at the event what it felt like to attend one of his openings in person. “It feels different.”

The film also captured Ai Weiwei’s relationship with his now six-year-old son Ai Lao who, able to travel, recently accepted the “Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award” on his father’s behalf (see Ai Weiwei and Joan Baez Get Amnesty International’s Top Human Rights Award).

Ai has two further exhibitions opening in Beijing  this month providing Chinese fans a rare chance to see his work at Magician Space and Chambers Fine Art. He also has a show opening at London’s Royal Academy on September 19.

“Ai Weiwei” in on view at Galleria Continua/Tang Contemporary Art District 798, Beijing through September 6.

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