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Ai Weiwei (born 1957 Beijing) is a leading Chinese artist, curator, architectural designer, cultural and social commentator and activist. Beginning with the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Ai has emerged as one of China's most influential bloggers and social activists; he is known for his tongue-in-cheek and sometimes vulgar social commentary, and has had frequent run-ins with Chinese authorities. He was particularly focused at exposing an alleged corruption scandal in the construction of Sichuan schools that collapsed during the earthquake. Born in Beijing, Ai Weiwei’s father was Chinese poet Ai Qing, who was denounced during the Cultural Revolution and sent off to a labour camp in Xinjiang with his wife, Gao Ying. Ai Weiwei also spent five years there.
Ai Weiwei is married to artist Lu Qing. In 1978 he enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy and was one of the founders of the early avant garde art group the "Stars", together with Ma Desheng, Wang Keping, Huang Rui, Li Shuang, Zhong Acheng and Qu Leilei. In China the group subsequently disbanded in 1983. Ai Weiwei continued to participate in regular Stars group shows, The Stars: Ten Years, 1989 (Hanart Gallery, Hong-Hong and Taipei), and a retrospective exhibition in Beijing in 2007: Origin Point (Today Art Museum, Beijing).
From 1981 to 1993, he lived in the United States, mostly in New York, doing performance art and creating conceptual art by altering readymade objects. In New York he studied at Parsons School of Design. In 1987 he took part in the founding of The Chinese United Overseas Artists Association.