Ai Weiwei: Artist And Activist To Speak At Cambridge Union

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is to appear in conversation with Yana Peel, CEO of the Serpentine Galleries, at the Cambridge Union. The renowned artist follows in the footsteps of such respected figures as the Dalai Lama, Winston Churchill, Judi Dench and Salman Rushdie in addressing students at the historic union.

Ai is notable for the breadth of his interests, which include not only his art practice but also architecture, literature, political and social issues and above all, human rights and freedom of speech. The artist’s discussion with Peel will reflect upon his work as an artist and activist who has had to fight for freedom of movement and global communication. They will also discuss Ai’s recent work with refugees in the Greek islands.

The talk coincides with the opening of his exhibition Ai Weiwei: Cubes and Trees at the Heong Gallery at Downing College. The exhibition will feature the premiere of his new work Lesvos 2016, made on the island where Ai has been working with Syrian refugees. The exhibition will feature a number of the artist’s iconic life-size tree sculptures, set in the grounds of the neo-classical college.

About the artist:

Ai Weiwei (b. 1957) is a Chinese artist and activist who lives and works in Berlin and Beijing. After attending Beijing Film Academy, he moved to New York, where he lived between 1981 and 1993. Since his installation Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern six years ago, Ai Weiwei has been the focus of several displays in British institutions. Most notably, his exhibition at the Royal Academy last October was hailed as ‘the cultural phenomenon of the year’. Other major solo exhibitions include the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2012) and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2009). Architectural collaborations include the 2012 Serpentine Pavilion and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Stadium, with Herzog and de Meuron. In 2007 he brought 1,001 Chinese citizens to the German town of Kassel as part of his work for documenta 12, entitled Fairytale. He is one of the leading cultural figures of his generation and consistently places himself at risk to effect social change and encourage free speech. Most recently, he has been working with refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Photo: P A Black © 2016

Ai Weiwei At The Cambridge Union – 3pm Wednesday 15 June 2016

Ai Weiwei: Cubes and Trees – Heong Gallery Downing College – 17 June to 9 October 2016

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