Chinese artist, activist Ai Weiwei exhibit to visit Michigan

AP News
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Posted: Jan 26, 2017 3:09 PM

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — An art exhibition by famed Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei will soon open in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

"Natural State" is Ai's second exhibit to visit the U.S. since his five-year house arrest ended in 2015. The exhibit will take place at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and display more than 30 pieces of his work, the Grand Rapids Press (http://bit.ly/2j8ketM ) reported.

Grand Rapids is the only place in the U.S. the exhibit is expected to visit.

Ai has used his art to make controversial political statements about China and its government. His family in Beijing was forced into exile in a series of "re-education" camps in the 1950s because Ai's father, poet Ai Qing, was considered an enemy of the state.

Meijer Gardens' chief curator, Joseph Becherer, said Ai returned to Beijing in the 1990s, and found that the absence of freedom of speech and the lack of other human rights motivated him to take art seriously.

According to exhibit biographical information, Ai's activist-themed art at that time didn't sit well with the Chinese government, and he was arrested and held for three months in 2011.

"I think (Ai) gets to two extraordinarily important issues of our time: the freedom of speech and human rights," Becherer said. "The way in which he does that comes through visual arts, comes through in his reference to his biography and comes through in his reference to China."

The exhibit opens to the public on Friday. It will be open until Aug. 20.

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, http://www.mlive.com