Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983–1993
Over two hundred photographs are on view for the first time outside China
June 29–August 14, 2011

Asia Society Museum
725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street)
New York, NY 10021

Ai Weiwei, "Outside Tompkins Square Park," 1986. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss, Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. Courtesy of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.

Asia Society Museum presents an exhibition of 227 photographs taken by Ai Weiwei, capturing the history, culture, and atmosphere of 1980s New York from his unique perspective. The exhibition marks the first time Ai Weiwei’s New York Photographs series is being shown outside of China, and is organized by Melissa Chiu, Asia Society Museum Director.

Before Ai Weiwei became internationally recognized as an artist and activist, he lived in a tiny apartment in New York’s East Village, and was a prominent member of a community of expatriate Chinese artists and intellectuals in the neighborhood’s then burgeoning avant-garde scene. Throughout those years, from 1983 to 1993, the artist used his camera to document his life and work, his surroundings, and the atmosphere of the time. The photographs document a distinct era in New York, as seen through Ai Weiwei’s eyes, tracing the beginnings of his conceptual art practice. They depict East Village poetry readings, riots in Tompkins Square Park, drag queens at Wigstock, and well-known artists and intellectuals from China, such as filmmaker Chen Kaige, composer Tan Dun and artist Xu Bing.

The New York Photographs series comprises a selection of photographs from Ai’s archive of 10,000, selected by the artist. It is conceived as a single unified installation that reveals Ai Weiwei’s personal experiences, thoughts and attitudes at the time the photographs were taken.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 316-page comprehensive catalogue with plates of all the photographs, along with essays and interviews, published by Three Shadows Photography Art Centre. The exhibition is organized by Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing in association with Asia Society Museum. Special thanks to Chambers Fine Art.

Support for Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983–1993 is provided by Asia: Ideas and Images, endowed by Harold and Ruth Newman, and the Mattawin Company.