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Ai Weiwei, Lower East Side Restaurant

Ai Weiwei, Lower East Side Restaurant (1988), inkjet on paper [Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver BC, Sep 5-Nov 30] Courtesy of the artist

Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983-1993

Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery
Vancouver BC – Sep 5-Nov 30, 2014

Ai Weiwei, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Ai Weiwei, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (1983), inkjet on paper [Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver BC, Sep 5-Nov 30] Courtesy of the artist


A parlour game that continues to make the rounds in the art world asks, “Who is the world’s best-known living artist?” The answer is trickier than you might think. Those who would answer Marina Abramovi´c, Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst, would be speaking only of artists in the western world. Because everyone in China knows who Ai Weiwei is, the real winner in this game of “best-known” would certainly be him.

Long before Ai became known for his conceptual forays, his activism and his detentions for “crimes against the economy,” he lived in the United States. For a time in the 1980s, he studied at the Parsons School of Design and the Art Students League in New York. After dropping out, he drew street portraits, worked odd jobs and, most remarkably, played blackjack at Atlantic City, where his prowess is legendary.

When not making a living, Ai took pictures – over 10,000 during his years in the States. The negatives are stored at the Three Shadows Photography Art Center in Beijing. For this exhibition and the related publication, Ai selected 227 of his images, all black and white. Some of the pictures document his arrival in New York and the friendships he made (most notably with poet Allen Ginsberg). Others are more pointed observations, such as his depictions of poverty in the East Village neighbourhood where he lived.

belkin.ubc.ca

Michael Turner

Ai Weiwei, Abandoned Building on the Lower East Side

Ai Weiwei, Abandoned Building on the Lower East Side (1987), inkjet on paper [Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver BC, Sep 5-Nov 30] Courtesy of the artist


Ai Weiwei, Summer at Tompkins Square
Ai Weiwei, Summer at Tompkins Square (1993), inkjet on paper [Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver BC, Sep 5-Nov 30] Courtesy of the artist


Ai Weiwei, Bill Clinton, Lower East Side
Ai Weiwei, Bill Clinton, Lower East Side (1992), inkjet on paper [Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver BC, Sep 5-Nov 30] Courtesy of the artist



 Wed, Sep 10, 2014