How Ai Weiwei’s years living in an underground hole haunt his art to this day – BBC Newsnight

Ai Weiwei is one of the most famous artists in the world, but infamous to the Chinese authorities. To them he is an outspoken, critical troublemaker.

Eight years ago, after a period of imprisonment and then house arrest in Shanghai, he left China and now lives in Portugal, but his work is always about China and often using ordinary objects and found materials to comment on his country’s past and present. 

When he was two, the family was banished at the start of the Cultural Revolution, to the Gobi desert in order to punish his father, then China’s most famous poet, Ai Quing. For the first five years of that banishment they lived in an underground hole, with no light heat or water.

The entrance to the “hellhole” is the artist’s screensaver and also features in his new exhibition at the design museum in London, in a giant lego brick depiction of his late father’s favourite painting of Monet’s Water Lilies.

Kirsty Wark met Ai Weiwei before his exhibition opened.

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