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AI WEIWEI: TRACE the power of resistance

The Skirball CulturalCenter will resume indoor museum operations this May with the Southern California debut of Ai Weiwei: Trace. Created by Ai Weiwei, one of China’s most provocative and socially engaged living artists, the installation features portraits made up of thousands of plastic LEGO® bricks, each assembled by hand and laid out on the floor. These portraits depict individuals from around the world whom Ai and leading human-rights groups consider to be activists, prisoners of conscience, and advocates of free speech. The body of work is shaped by Ai’s own experiences as an outspoken human-rights activist: In 2011, he was arrested, interrogated, and incarcerated by the Chinese government for eighty-one days. Upon release, he was kept under surveillance and prohibited from traveling abroad or engaging in public speech until 2015. Since that time, Ai’s art has increasingly centered around the theme of freedom of expression.

“Like Ai Weiwei, the individuals in Trace have been incarcerated or exiled because of their convictions and activism,” commented Jessie Kornberg, Skirball President and CEO. “We are honored to present this monumental work, which, by way of a disarmingly playful medium, examines courage and conscience in the face of authoritarianism and challenges us to recommit to the work of safeguarding our most basic democratic ideals.”

The exhibition will showcase eighty-three of the work’s original 176 and will be on view from May 15 through August 1.


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