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Preview: “@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz”

A notorious former prison off of San Francisco's coast will be the site of Ai Weiwei's latest exhibition, "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz," opening September 27. The renowned Chinese artist — who has served time behind bars in his native country for the politically outspoken content of his work — has been working remotely on the site-specific project in a transcontinental collaboration between Beijing and San Francisco with curator Cheryl Haines. Because Ai Weiwei is currently on house arrest for tax evasion in Beijing, the project took three years of planning and nine months of making with the help of many volunteers. He will personally never see the work.


Photo by Adam Grossberg/KQED.

A notorious former prison off of San Francisco’s coast will be the site of Ai Weiwei’s latest exhibition, “@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz,” opening September 27. The renowned Chinese artist — who has served time behind bars in his native country for the politically outspoken content of his work — has been working remotely on the site-specific project in a transcontinental collaboration between Beijing and San Francisco with curator Cheryl Haines. Because Ai Weiwei is currently on house arrest for tax evasion in Beijing, the project took three years of planning and nine months of making with the help of many volunteers. He will personally never see the work.

The magnum opus of “@Large” features 176 Lego portraits of political prisoners laid out flatly in a building with a floor the size of a football field. The work is composed of over one million Lego pieces that form the pixelated faces of dissidents past and present, including Edward Snowden, Boris Pavlovich Belousov, Shin Suk-jav and Roza Tuletaeva. While Alcatraz is a major tourist destination year round, previously inaccessible parts of the island — like the former psych ward and prison hospital — will be utilized for the show, which is on view through April 27. Take a look at a few preview images below and stay tuned for more coverage next week.

Images via KQED.

Photo by Adam Grossberg/KQED.


Ai Weiwei with curator Cheryl Haines in Beijing. Photo by Jan Stürmann.

Photo by Jan Stürmann.

Photo by Jan Stürmann.

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While he is currently barred from leaving China, renowned artist and activist Ai Weiwei has been working on "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz" since his release from prison in 2011. Incarcerated for his politically outspoken artwork, Ai used his experience as fuel for a unique exhibition that fills the historical former prison and military fortress with site-specific installations that draw attention to human rights crises worldwide. Orchestrated remotely with the help of San Francisco-based curator Cheryl Haines and legions of volunteers, the exhibition is as much a spectacle as it is an educational experience.
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