Ai Weiwei | St. Louis Public Radio

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei and museum curator Sabine Eckmann examine "The Odyssey," a massive frieze in his exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Museum. In the foreground is a detail of "Forever Bicycle," a sculpture made from 720 bicycles. [11/8/19]
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

When does a mirror selfie become high art? 

For artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, it happened in 2008 when he photographed himself inside an elevator. Chinese authorities arrested him to prevent him from testifying in the trial of a fellow activist. 

His now-iconic selfie, “Illumination,” is part of his exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis. The work ranges from delicate ceramics fashioned with ancient Chinese techniques to a carefully stacked pile of rubble. 

The wide-ranging show reflects Weiwei’s deep interest in honoring the past, while reshaping it into something new. 

Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 2015 is part of the Ai Weiwei: Bare Life exhibition.
Provided | Ai Weiwei Studio

St. Louis’ Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will reopen this fall with a big artistic bang: an exhibition by celebrated Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei.

The Kemper closed last April for a $12 million renovation, part of $280 million campus project. The work significantly increases the museum’s display space.

The Sept. 28 opening will feature three dozen Ai Weiwei pieces, including some created for the exhibition and others never before seen in the United States.

Thi article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 16, 2012 - Freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly are all guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, and in that sense artist-activist Ai Weiwei is very much a law-abiding citizen of the People's Republic. But his challenges to China to abide by its own laws guaranteeing personal freedom have earned him constant government surveillance, arrests, a brutal police beating, the demolition of his studio in Shanghai and, last year, almost three months in prison.