Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist and activist. His activity as a dissident has gone hand in hand with his artistic career and he has continued to produce work testifying to his political beliefs while at the same time making plenty of room for creativity and experimentation.
After returning to China from his studies abroad, Ai contributed to the establishment of Beijing’s East Village, a community of avant-garde artists. In 1997, he co-founded the China Art Archives & Warehouse (CAAW), one of the first independent art spaces in China. He began to take an interest in architecture in 1999, and in 2003, Ai started his own architecture practice, FAKE Design. Ai collaborated with architects Herzog & de Meuron as consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
As an activist, he has been openly critical of the Chinese Government's stance on democracy and human rights. He investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular the Sichuan schools corruption scandal following the collapse of "tofu-dreg schools" in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. After denouncing government corruption and the lack of respect for human rights and freedom of speech in China, he was arrested, beaten, placed in isolation and forbidden to travel. In 2012, Ai Weiwei was awarded the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent by the Human Rights Foundation.
Since being allowed to leave China in 2015, he has lived in Berlin, Germany, with his family, working and traveling internationally. In 2015, Ai was awarded the Ambassador of Conscience Award by Amnesty International for his defense of human rights.
Weiwei was hosted by The Common Good for a discussion on Art and Activism in Amsterdam with Ai Weiwei.