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Home /  Exhibitions / Past Exhibitions / Ai Weiwei: Unbroken
Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio.

Ai Weiwei: Unbroken

Thu Feb 28 to Jun 09, 2019, All Day

Ai Weiwei is one of the world’s most influential artists and human rights activists, as well as one of China’s most formidable critics. Known for smashing conventions—and ceramics—with iconic works like Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, he upends the cultural traditions and materials of his native China.

This highly-anticipated and timely exhibition explores the breaking of boundaries, both physical and symbolic, and considers how the artist’s ceramic works form a basis for his ongoing exploration of urgent social justice themes, including immigration, freedom of speech, and the repression of dissent.

Ai Weiwei: Unbroken features iconic works, including Sunflower Seeds and Coca Cola Vase, as well as recent works in blue-and-white porcelain that depict the global refugee crisis. The exhibition also marks the international debut of a new large-scale LEGO series representing the Chinese zodiac.

Please note: Capacity in the exhibition is limited to ensure the safety of the artworks and your enjoyment of the exhibition. There is no timed entry. Please be aware that you may encounter wait times during particularly busy periods.

No coats or large bags are permitted in the exhibition. Lockers and cubbies will be provided.

Ai Weiwei, Zodiac, LEGO, Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio

About the Artist

Ai Weiwei (b. 1957, Beijing) is among the world’s most celebrated contemporary artists and one of China’s most formidable critics. His sculptures, photographs, installations, and public artworks often repurpose traditional Chinese forms and materials to address today’s most pressing social concerns. An outspoken human rights activist, Ai was arrested by Chinese authorities on April 3, 2011 and held incommunicado for eighty-one days. In July 2015 he was granted the return of his passport to travel abroad despite ongoing government surveillance. Throughout, Ai has continued to extend his practice across multiple disciplines, using exhibitions, documentary films, and social media to communicate with a global audience.

Ai Weiwei attended the Beijing Film Academy and the Parsons School of Design in New York. He has received the Chinese Contemporary Art Award (2008); an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Politics and Social Science, University of Ghent, Belgium (2010); the Skowhegan Medal (2011); and the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation (2012).

Exhibition programs & events

Wednesday February 27, 10 am – 8 pm
Friends Day Preview
Gardiner Friends are invited to join us for an exclusive preview of the exhibition before it opens to the public.

March – April
AWW Free School
Delve deeper into the themes presented in Ai Weiwei: Unbroken with interdisciplinary workshops on documentary media, spoken word, performance, and online journalism.
Tuesday, March 5: Embodied Narratives
Tuesday, March 19: Documenting Dissent
Tuesday, April 2: Fake News
Tuesday, April 16: Extreme Music Therapy

Monday March 11, 6:30 – 8 pm
Inspiring, Intimidating, Inciting: Jingdezhen’s Blue-and-White Porcelain
Anthropologist and cultural historian Maris Boyd Gillette will explore how Jingdezhen porcelain has inspired, intimidated, and incited ceramists to create, copy, and counterfeit its glories.

Thursday April 25, 8 pm – 12 am
New Ho Queen: Undivided
New Ho Queen curates an art party that breaks down walls and boundaries, and, through the lens of queer Asian artists, explore how building bridges and fostering chosen families create subcultural spaces for expression and belonging.

Tuesday May 7, 6:30 – 8 pm
Hidden from View: China’s Repression of Uyghurs
This panel will explore Human Rights Watch’s ongoing research on China’s mass arbitrary detention and mistreatment of Turkic-speaking Muslim Uyghurs.

Tuesday June 4, 6:30 – 8 pm
AWW Free School Final: 6/4/89
Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the student protests at Tiananmen Square, this culmination of the AWW Free School will feature an onstage conversation with journalists and activists reflecting on its impact.

Presenting Sponsor

La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso

Exhibition Partners

Phil Lind & Ellen Roland

The Rooney Family Foundation

Hal Jackman Foundation

Kim Spencer McPhee Barristers PC

AW Asia

Media Partner

Toronto Star

Programs Sponsor


AWW Free School Partners


Image: Ai Weiwei, Zodiac, 2018, LEGO bricks, 12 individual works, 45 x 45 inches each (115 x 115 cm each), Image courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio.