Flash back to this time four years ago, when the AGO was in full swing with Ai Weiwei: According to What? The exhibition, which showcased the photographs, sculpture, installation art and audio/video pieces of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, had captured the imagination of our visitors, making it one of the hottest tickets in town. Ai Weiwei’s exploration of issues surrounding freedom of expression, individual and human rights and the power of digital communications was timely and compelling, and the exhibition welcomed over 145,000 visitors.
At the time, Ai Weiwei was under domestic arrest and heavy surveillance in Beijing as a result of his activism and provocative artwork that openly raised questions about the transparency and accountability of the Chinese government. His passport had been seized, making international travel impossible.
The AGO tried unsuccessfully to get Ai here for the opening of the exhibition, but settled for the next best thing: a live video chat between former AGO Director Matthew Teitelbaum and the artist, who participated from the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. The sold-out event featured a Q&A session with prominent Torontonians – one of whom was The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, 26th Governor General of Canada.
Ai Weiwei was given his passport back by the Chinese government two years later, and he’s finally coming to Toronto. Ai is the recipient of the 2017 Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship through the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), a national charity co-founded by Clarkson and John Ralston Saul.
On September 27, the ICC’s second annual 6 Degrees Citizen Space event will host an intimate evening of conversation with Ai Weiwei, marking his first speaking appearance in Canada. In addition to officially accepting his award, he will share his thoughts on the global refugee crisis and the intersection of art and activism. Tickets are available here.
Ai Weiwei’s absence was deeply felt back in 2013. We’re proud to finally welcome him to Toronto, a place where his message has resonated deeply.
Read more about our 2013 Ai Weiwei exhibition here.
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