Today, four years after the Chinese government banned him from traveling abroad, Ai Weiwei got his passport back. Detained in 2011 on charges of tax evasion—which he claims was an attempt at intimidation motivated by his criticism of the government—the dissident artist was confined to Beijing for a year and then banned from international travel.
Despite that, Ai Weiwei managed to put on a number of renowned exhibitions around the world, coordinating them from China. (He also, among other things, directed Berlin, I Love You starring his son, Ai Lao.)
Now that Ai Weiwei has his passport, he can finally visit the places that hosted his work while he was confined to China. Here’s a chronology of some of his exhibitions at institutions that supported him during that time, plus a look at an upcoming event this fall.
1. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Ai Weiwei: According to What? ran at the Hirshhorn, part of the Smithsonian Institute, from October 2012 to February 2013, and included a mix of sculpture, photography, and multimedia installations.
What to see now: On display until September, Shirin Neshat: Facing History is a collection of the American-Iranian artist’s photographs and films that explore issues of power dynamics and identity in Iran and the wider region.
Planning a trip: Check out the AFAR guide, 12 Must-Do Experiences in D.C.
2. Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
From April to July 2014, the famous Berlin exhibition hall played host to Ai Weiwei’s largest one-man show, Evidence, which was spread over 3,000 square meters and 18 rooms.
What to see now: Until August 8, local artist Tino Sehgal’s radical situational/performed art manifests throughout the institution, creating interactions rather than material objects.
Planning a trip: The ghosts of Berlin’s history haunt the city in these eerie but compelling abandoned places.
3. Alcatraz, San Francisco
From September 2014 to April 2015, normally restricted areas of San Francisco‘s notorious prison were opened to the public as part of @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz. Ranging from a technicolor dragon, to Lego-block portraits of activists imprisoned around the world, to sound installations, the artworks dealt with themes of freedom.
What to see now: Alcatraz is always a moving and educational visit, and has a superb audio tour. For more art as activism, the Mission district’s Clarion and Balmy Alleys are famous for their commentaries on gentrification, human rights, and more.
Planning a trip: There’s more to the Mission than art in alleyways, so use this guide to make the most of your trip to one of the city’s liveliest neighborhoods.
4. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England
An 18th-century country pile just northwest of Oxford, Blenheim Palace seems an unlikely venue for Ai Weiwei. But from October 2014 to April 2015 the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough hosted Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace, a sly look at the myths and history of east and west that included thousands of porcelain crabs crawling out of a fireplace.
What to see now: Wander through opulent stately rooms, see where Winston Churchill was born, get lost in the maze.
Planning a trip: Explore the stunning medieval architecture of Oxford. For some pop culture relief from the overbearing academia, visit Christ Church College, whose hall was inspiration for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.
5. The Royal Academy of Arts, London
London‘s Royal Academy is a little different to the other places on this list, because although he planned it from Beijing, Ai Weiwei’s exhibition is yet to take place. From September to December this year, the RA will showcase a wide-ranging selection of the artist’s work, incorporating such recurring concerns as freedom, censorship, human rights, and Chinese society.
What to see now: New York artist Joseph Cornell is known for his unique “shadow boxes,” in which he formed found materials and other ephemera into topical assemblages. Wanderlust brings together a number of the artist’s boxes, plus collages and films.
Planning a trip: London is an art lover’s dream, and so much of it can be seen for free. Scope this guide to find out where.
Photo from Ai Weiwei’s Instagram
For more on art around the world, check out the AFAR Culture and Design Interest Page
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