File photo / AP
Ai Weiwei file photo in Beijing, Nov. 17, 2010.
BEIJING – Since the 1970s, Ai Weiwei has been at the forefront of China’s experimental art scene which has blossomed over the years alongside the country’s economic standing. The 54-year-old’s work on the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium in Beijing, as well as high profile exhibits like the October 2010 installation project, Sunflower Seeds, in which Ai commissioned 100 million handcrafted porcelain “seeds” that were then poured into a room at the Tate Modern Gallery in London, have captivated audiences worldwide.
Such high-profile projects have gained Ai international acclaim in the artistic world, but it has been his transformation into social activist and outspoken critic of China’s authoritarian regime that has turned him into a global icon.
This year, Ai has been a fixture in the news as he diligently worked to document the flurry of arrests of Chinese activists, lawyers and writers by the government following the wave of popular uprisings that erupted throughout the Middle East. Ai himself was detained in April 2011 and was held without formal charge by Chinese security for 81 days. He was released following what the government claims was a confession by Ai to charges of tax evasion.
Eric Baculinao / NBC News
Ai Weiwei answers reader questions during the Live Chat in his Beijing studio with NBC's Ed Flanagan on Tuesday.
Ai Weiwei now finds himself fighting legal charges that include tax evasion and even pornography. In both cases, Ai’s supporters in China have rallied to his side by lending $1.4 million to the artist to pay a legal guarantee that will allow him to contest the tax charges and posting their own “pornographic” pictures online in protest. (See a slideshow of Ai Weiwei's art).
Speaking recently about the charges, Ai told reporters, “We must follow the legal procedure. As any individual citizen, my innocence is linked with the country’s innocence.”
Ai Weiwei answered reader questions earlier today. Both the questions and answers were provocative and interesting. Click on the link below to replay the chat.