Ai Weiwei Takes on Tate Turbine Hall

Ai Weiwei, China’s most famous living artist, has become the eleventh person to receive the UK’s most popular public art commission, in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, according to The Guardian.

Described by the New York Times as a “figure of Warholian celebrity” in Beijing, Ai is also an influential architect, a publisher, a restaurateur, a patron, and mentor, and an obsessive blogger (he is read by ten thousand people every day).

His cultural status, however, failed to protect him last year when Chinese police burst into his hotel room and beat him so badly that surgeons in Munich had to drill two holes in his head to remove fluid from his skull.

The attack was a reaction to Ai’s investigation into the deaths of 5,250 children in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, an inquiry that inspired Remembering, 2009, a work made up of thousands of children’s backpacks.

His outspoken challenge to the government over why so many children died was, however, just the latest in a series of provocative stances the artist has taken. He inspired Beijing’s Olympic stadium but then refused to attend the opening ceremony.

Vicente Todolí, director of Tate Modern, said Ai’s works were “compelling” and “among the most socially engaged works of art being made today.”

“It will be thrilling to see how he responds to the vast, public environment of the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern this October,” he added.