Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is a very prominent and well respected figure in the art world, but his life is far from glamorous. His illegal 81-day detainment by the police and other struggles with the Chinese government have been the focus of documentaries, including Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case. In addition, there have been several major exhibitions of Ai's work over the past few years, including his largest solo exhibition ever at Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin and the "Ai Weiwei: According to What?" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, neither of which he was able to attend because the police refuse to return his passport. Ai's life is an open book that has inspired people around the world, and in the latest issue of V Magazine, pop icon Madonna nominated him as her personal "Rebel."
In an open letter for V Magazine's Issue 91, Ai Weiwei shared his thoughts on the social conditions that lead to rebellion, the healing power of art, and his belief that "freedom of expression is essential to human existence."
In response to Madonna's nomination, Ai wrote, "I think of 'rebels' as those who do not fit into the society they live in or are not satisfied with their current reality, for the power structure in place or its dominant ideology conflicts with their beliefs or conditions." He added, "Rebellion is a product of social injustice. It is a phenomenon of a developing civil society, in which the oppressed are aware and present. Intellectually, the rebel voice is always the most compelling argument.”
Ai's rebellious spirit contributed to his start in art. "I got into art because I wanted to take a different path," he writes. "Having a constant dissatisfaction and a critical mind, art brings me into unpredictable areas." To read more of what the artist had to say, check out V Magazine's story here or pick up a copy of the Fall Issue of V Magazine when it hits newsstands on Sept. 10.