Why Ai Weiwei won't stop speaking out


Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is one of the most famous artists in the world, and he's arguably having his biggest year to date.

He had an acclaimed show at the Venice Biennale. His first North American retrospective is now on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario (with stops in Brooklyn and Miami later this year). He's also presenting a new installation at Toronto's Nuit Blanche, and his Chinese Zodiac series is proudly displayed outside city hall.

Despite all this international acclaim, Ai is still subject to serious restrictions by the Chinese government. His passport has been seized. He's under constant surveillance, and he is forbidden from saying anything about the 81 days he spent in secret detention in 2011.

None of these restrictions has stopped him from speaking out, and his art has a powerful presence, even when the artist is absent. Check out our photogallery of some of Ai's most remarkable works, and his own thoughts on the message behind them.

Ai Weiwei thanks AGO for its courage

During the interview, Ai Weiwei expressed his gratitude to AGO organizers and Canadian audiences for supporting his retrospective in Toronto. The world renowned Chinese artist says it takes courage to showcase a dissident's work -- which itself supports "basic values such as human rights and freedom of speech" -- at a time when western governments are trying to build smoother, stronger relations with China.

"I am very happy to know that my work now received great enthusiasm from the Canadian audience, and I have to say thanks to them," said Ai in a Canadian broadcast exclusive with Q host Jian Ghomeshi. "And also thanks to the organizers and the director who had the courage to make those efforts."

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We connected with Ai Weiwei at his studio in Beijing, with help from our friends at The National and CBC News. You can also catch Jian's profile of Ai Weiwei on The National, on Friday Sept 6.

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