(Chinese, b.1957) is a Conceptual artist, sculptor, and curator, originally from Beijing, China. In 1978, he enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy. He later became a member of the artist group Stars, which refused to create Chinese Art that followed government guidelines. The first unofficial exhibition of this group, which took place by a fence of the Beijing National Gallery, attracted international attention.
From 1981 to 1993, Ai lived in the United States, primarily in New York. At that time, he focused on Performance and Conceptual Art, and graduated from the Parsons School of Design. Influenced by the artworks of Andy Warhol
, Jasper Johns
, and Marcel Duchamp
, he started to work on Objéts trouvés and Ready-mades. In his Safe Sex
(1986), he used a buttoned-up raincoat and a condom, which he positioned in the correct anatomical position. In 1990, after his return to Beijing, Ai collected old Chinese ceramics and parts of furniture and buildings, which he used for his works in a new context.
In the spring of 2011, he was arrested on suspicion of tax evasion. This incident caused a wave of international protest, and many important individuals called for his release. On June 22, 2011, the artist was granted bail with strict conditions. That same year, Ai was listed as one of the top 100 of most influential people in the world by Time Magazine
. He participated in the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, and in documenta XII in 2007. Ai lives and works in the Art District of Dashanz in Beijing.