Eleven ½ things you didn't know about Ai Weiwei

  • Published 2 October 2014

As his new exhibition opens at Blenheim Palace we unearth some unusual facts about China's most famous artist.

Ai Weiwei Photo by Gao Yuan

Ai Weiwei


Photo by Gao Yuan

1. He is a heavy metal musician

The video for his recent single ‘Dumbass’ was released on his YouTube channel last year, it recreates the 11½ weeks he spent in detention without charge in 2011.

2. His name is a banned search term on Sina Weibo

China’s answer to Twitter closed his account and continues to ban any reference to his name due to strict censorship laws.

3. He started the ‘gun leg’ craze

The artist started an internet meme after a photo of him holding his leg up, poised like a rifle, was posted on his Instagram account. Thousands of people recreated the pose, which was believed to be a satirical stab at China’s cultural control.

4. His father was Ai Qing, one of China’s most famous poets

As a Communist party member the influential poet was nevertheless exiled for twenty years after being denounced a rightist, but has since been celebrated for his significant contribution to ‘modern poetry’.

5. There is an asteroid named after him

The official name for the asteroid that was discovered on September 25, 2001 is 83598 Aiweiwei.

6. His seeds were stolen

Thousands of seeds purloined from his installation at the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern were featured in the Couriers of Taste exhibition at Danson House, after a public appeal for donations.

7. His partner is also an artist

His wife, Lu Qing, produces a single work annually, filling an 82ft long bolt of silk with painted grid patterns.

8. He is constantly watched

In a subversive nod to his constant surveillance Ai Weiwei has several webcams at his own home, live streaming his every move from his website.

9. He recreated Gangam Style

The artist created his own version of the South Korean viral hit which he dubbed Grass Mud Horse Style. It quickly disappeared from Chinese websites but is still available on YouTube.

10. His architectural inspiration is unusual

Despite being nicknamed the Bird’s Nest, he has claimed a toilet seat inspired his design for the Beijing Olympic Stadium.

11. He’s an amazing blackjack player

The artist is still considered at top tier professional blackjack player in gambling circles after making frequent trips to Atlantic City during his 12-year stay in New York.

11 ½. He really loves cats

It has been reported that he lives with more than 40 of them in his Beijing home, and his social media accounts are filled with images of his furry friends.

Ai Weiwei is at Blenheim Palace until 14 December 2014

Tags: things-you-didnt-know-about-artists