AAH-194 Visual Culture in Communist China

A Union College Art History Course, Spring 2023

Ai Weiwei Exhibition Theme

Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective: Tiananmen
Color Photograph

Ai Weiwei is known for his architectural designs as well as his shocking works of art. His artworks are centered around modernism while also inspired by Dadaism and Duchamp. Ai Weiwei’s avant-garde sense of style shocked viewers because of the confrontational nature of his works. His father, Ai Qing, was a well-known poet specifically known for his criticisms of the communist party. Ai Weiwei spent sixteen years of his youth in a remote place in China where the ability to express individualism was restricted. His father was punished and forced into hard labor because of his radical beliefs. Ai Qing was forced to clean toilets for five years and burned his educational books in order not to get caught. Ai Weiwei grew up watching his father being punished for his individualism which ultimately leads Ai Weiwei to find his unique artistic style.

For my exhibition, I will be focusing on individualism and breaking the standards. I found it so interesting how Ai is not afraid to break the standard of what is considered “normal” in the art world. Ai Weiwei highlights the importance of not being afraid to express his beliefs. It is also interesting how Ai critiques the communist party while also emphasizing early Chinese avant-garde styles. In the representative image, Study of Perspective: Tiananmen, Ai Weiwei takes a photo of himself giving the middle finger in Tiananmen Square. Specifically, Ai is giving the middle finger to Mao in order to show that he is rebelling against authority. Ai Weiwei also took the same photo at other landmarks in France and the United States. The focus of this specific work is to show tourists that authority should be questioned. More importantly, the government itself should be challenged if it is affecting people negatively. This image is a great example of Ai Weiwei challenging society and highlighting the flaws of government that should be made aware. Ai Weiwei continues to create artwork focusing on the importance of self-expression no matter what the reactions might be.


Ai, Weiwei, Karen Smith, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Bernhard Fibicher. Ai Weiwei. London: Phaidon, 2013. 

Image Source:

Publicdelivery. “Ai Weiwei Gives World His Middle Finger.” Public Delivery – Art non-profit, July 8, 2022. https://publicdelivery.org/ai-weiwei-study-of-perspective/.


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1 Comment

  1. Victoria Davison

    I think your artist and your exhibition theme is extremely interesting! I would love to see more examples of your artists’ works and how they relate to this topic. I also think it’s so interesting how their background of architecture is used to enhance their message. I think displaying these similar works in rebellion to politics would be powerful and extremely intriguing!

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