Ai Weiwei: Trace

2021 opening date TBA

About the Exhibition

Trace makes its Los Angeles debut at the Skirball this winter. Created by Ai Weiwei (b. Beijing, 1957), one of China’s most provocative and socially engaged artists, the exhibition portrays individuals from more than twenty-five countries around the world whom the artist and various human rights groups consider to be activists, prisoners of conscience, and advocates of free speech.

Hand-assembled by hundreds of volunteers, each of the eighty-three portraits is comprised of thousands of LEGO® bricks. This disarmingly playful material can easily be constructed, or deconstructed, on a massive scale—in some ways acting as a metaphor for freedom itself.

An outspoken human rights activist, Ai Weiwei was arrested by Chinese authorities in 2011 and held incommunicado for three months. Upon release, he was prohibited from traveling abroad or engaging in public speech and was subjected to continued government surveillance for four years. His position as a dissident artist has informed much of his recent work. Foregrounding Ai Weiwei's own experiences of incarceration, interrogation, and surveillance, Trace puts a spotlight on the importance and the fragility of our most basic democratic ideals. 


Ai Weiwei: Trace is organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this program.

About the Artist

Ai Weiwei has spent nearly four decades exploring the relationships between art, society, and individual experience. His work, as prolific as it is eclectic, encompasses a wide range of media, including sculpture, installation, photography, film, painting, and architecture. He has extended his practice across multiple disciplines and through social media to communicate with a global public and to engage fellow artists with projects on a massive scale.

Ai attended the Beijing Film Academy and the Parsons School of Design in New York. He has received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Politics and Social Science, University of Ghent, Belgium (2010), as well as many international awards.

More to Explore

KQED takes us behind-the-scenes of the making of the exhibition @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, which first featured the portraits included in Trace.