Ai Weiwei specializes in conceptual and minimalistic art. He is also an activist, architect and filmmaker. His main focus through his art is to bring attention to human rights violations. His large-scale projects bridge a divide between visual and social. Back in China, he has been persecuted for his controversial pieces. Freedom of speech is not recognized there and as a result, he has been beaten and jailed by police. His art studio was demolished and set to be constantly inspected by the authorities.
Ai’s art allows for people the general public and art community to be inspired. Ai’s art shows the struggle of freedom and sheds light on issues that are relatable in today’s society whether in the West or in China. Ai continue to gain more support through his audience on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. The support was so great that when Lego reused to send him a shipment of blocks to create a piece, he began to receive blocks from his supporters.
Ai’s experiences in China largely influences his art. In fact, he believes that he would not have been inspired to start creating if he wasn’t set into exile for twenty years by the Chinese government. Ai’s mother, Gao Ying was a writer and his father, Ai Qing was a poet. His father was accused of being an enemy of state. As a result of this, his family was set into exile when Ai was just one year old. While in exile, Ai learned many practical skills that he now applies to his art. He was taught how to make furniture and make bricks. As a child, Ai’s only source of education was an Encyclopedia.
Ai’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” is his largest public-art project to date. This project is so large that it cannot be contained in a gallery. The pieces are mounted on top of buildings, at bus shelters newsstands. They are also in highly congested areas like Washington Square Park and Central Park. “Good Fences” includes three large installations, the golden birdcage that I visited; a 40-foot inspired Duchamp-inspired structure in Washington Square Park, and a 1,000 feet of mesh netting encircling the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Flushing. The fences and cages are symbolic of the way in which cultures and nations create divisions. Ai said he decided to paint The Gilded Cage in Central Park gold in a nod to former resident, President Trump. Ai calls this exhibit a “love letter” to the people immigrants who have made New York City their home and the residents who have welcomed them.