Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983–1993 consists of 227 black-and-white photographs taken by the artist during the decade that he resided in New York City following his first time away from China. The photographs included in this exhibition were personally selected by the artist from over 10,000 negatives that are housed at Three Shadows Photography Art Center in Beijing.
Presented in chronological order, these images form a layering of narratives that begin with the artist’s arrival in a city and culture that was completely new to him after growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China. Subsequent narratives emerge through his interactions with friends and acquaintances arriving from China, the meeting of new friends in New York such as Allen Ginsberg, his observation of poverty in the East Village neighbourhood where he lived, and records of violent demonstrations and celebratory festivals. While his intention was not to be a documentarian, his photography nonetheless has become a personal and impressionistic diary that represents a time, place, and culture.
Ai Weiwei is among the most widely recognized artists in the world today. He is known not only for his artwork but also for his commitment to human rights and freedom of expression in China. The photographs in this exhibition represent a young artist exploring both personal relationships and a culture in which public demonstration is part of the social process, an experience that would inform his future relationship with China.
Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983–1993 is organized in collaboration with Three Shadows Photography Art Center, Beijing and Chambers Fine Art in New York and Beijing. We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts and our Belkin Curator’s Forum members.
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