Ai Weiwei Will Curate London Exhibition of Works Created by Incarcerated People

This fall, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei will curate a show of works created by incarcerated people in London.

The exhibition, titled “Freedom,” is organized by the Koestler Arts charity, which promotes and sells works by incarcerated people, and will open at the Southbank Center this October. It’s intended to mark the 60th anniversary of the Koestler Awards, a prize initiative honoring the artistic achievements of detainees across the U.K. criminal justice system.

“Freedom” will reflect a diversity of people’s experiences with incarceration, with works created by individuals in prisons, mental health facilities, immigration detainment centers, and youth offender institutions. “The vision for the exhibition is inspired by [Ai’s] visit to the Koestler Arts building [in west London], which currently holds over 6,500 works entered into this year’s awards,” the exhibition organizers said in a statement.

Ai, perhaps China’s most prominent artist, was detained in 2011 in Beijing for his criticism of China’s authoritarian regime during a crackdown on human rights lawyers, writers, and bloggers. He spent 81 days in prison on charges of tax fraud. In several interviews conducted following his release, he said he was subject to frequent interrogations and constant surveillance. In 2016, he offered the public a glimpse into the brutal experience with S.A.C.R.E.D., a group of near-life-size dioramas depicting the artist and two watchful guards inside small steel boxes.

“This exhibition focuses on the role that the act of thinking and creating plays in life under constraints,” Ai said in a statement. “Notable works of art and literature in history were created when the artist was restricted, oppressed, and challenged, rather than being completely free.” 

Earlier this year, Koestler Arts invited people within the criminal justice system to submit artworks across the genres of art, writing, design, or music for the annual Koestler Awards. Entrants receive feedback, and a select few will have their work exhibited publicly.

According to the show’s curators, Ai is spending the summer reviewing thousands of entries of visual art. In honor of the Koestler Arts’ 60th anniversary, Ai said he wants the 2022 exhibition to be “the most ambitious yet.”

Share This Post:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

On Key

Related Posts

The Anna Weyant Media Circus Is A Window Into Art World Sexism And Power

“Painter Anna Weyant’s story sounds like a modern-day art fairytale,” writes Smithsonian Magazine about the 27-year-old artist whose work sold for $400 three years ago, but now fetches $1.6 million at auction. Called a “millennial Botticelli” by both the Wall Street Journal and the South China Morning Post, Weyant makes paintings of women and girls

Warhol Family to Sell Student Work, Penn Museum to Bury Skulls of Enslaved People, and More: Morning Links for August 10, 2022

To receive Morning Links in your inbox every weekday, sign up for our Breakfast with ARTnews newsletter. The Headlines SEOUL MATES. Timed with Frieze Seoul, Christie’s and HomeArt will stage a pop-up show in Seoul that pairs the work of Francis Bacon and Adrian Ghenie, per Ocula. The exhibition ran in Hong Kong in May, and includes a reported $440 million of art. Other news from the South Korean capital: The credit

Photographer Spotlight: Jonathan Jasberg

Jonathan Jasberg                                                                                                          

Artist Spotlight: Peter Jojaio

Peter Jojaio                                                                         Peter Jojaio on Twitter Peter Jojaio on Instagram

Scroll to Top


Yes! Sign me up for AFYC's weekly newsletter featuring valuable info for artists, nonprofits, upcoming contests, and our new product offerings.

Count Me In!