Ai Wei Wei and Art as Social Change

Last week our IB Art class watched some videos about Ai Wei Wei. Recently after making a mass order of Lego pieces for his new piece, the contemporary artist was denied access to the materials by Lego. According to the company, they avoid “actively engaging in or endorsing the use of Lego bricks in projects or contexts of a political agenda.” Ai Wei Wei, who is possibly the most controversial contemporary artist in the world today, certainly fits into this restriction.

Nevertheless, Wei Wei is not giving up on his project. Instead, he’s now accepting donation of Lego bricks from all over the world. Just because a major corporation told him, “no”, it doesn’t mean he’s going to stop, because according to Wei Wei it is an artist’s duty to show their feelings through his work.

In my opinion, showing your feelings through artwork is what it’s all about. Whether those feelings are controversial, emotional, thought provoking, or anything else, art is there for you to express what you would otherwise keep inside. For me, that is what my entire exhibition is about, sharing my feelings through art, especially ones that I don’t share in any other way. Art is a medium that is there for you to display your thoughts to the world.

But sometimes displaying those thoughts are hard. Take Ai Wei Wei for example, who has been incarcerated for opposing the government through his artwork. Another artist like this is Honore Daumier, the “Michelangelo of caricatures”. He published a caricature of the king of France, Louis Phillippe, and portrayed him as a giant named Gargantua. Because of this social commentary, Daumier was imprisoned for six months.


Gargantua by Honore Daumier, 1831

The moral of this story? Even if you know that your thoughts will cause controversy, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t speak your mind. As an artist, you can’t be afraid of criticism or punishment. Art has the power to change the world, but you have to let it.


3 thoughts on “Ai Wei Wei and Art as Social Change

  1. This artwork has a really good message because it boosts self confidence in the context that it helps one to not fear the factors of being judged on the controversy you have to voice your opinion about. It has a great link towards the Ai wei wei situation very well.


  2. Really well said! I agree when you explain that showing your feelings through art work is what art is all about. No matter what your feelings may be, art is always there for you to express them. I also really liked how you connected Wei Wei’s situation to another artist, Honore Daumier, who had a very similar one . This strengthens the idea of the government taking improper actions when it comes to artists and their expressions. Your final statement is very powerful, art does have the power to change the world but it’s up to the artist to let it.


  3. What you said about how art can change the world but you have to let it really made me think, because the idea of being an artist has always made me a little nervous. If you do manage to become well known, you are forced to open yourself up to all sorts of criticism, and it most certainly will come. It often seems that for every person who appreciates a more controversial artist’s work, there are two people trying to discredit that artist. For this reason, the idea of being an artist who is unafraid of criticism is more than a little daunting, and I have to disagree with your statement that an artist can’t be afraid of punishment or criticism. I think it’s okay to be afraid of what might come as a reaction to your art, because I know that I would definitely be scared if I created something which might repercussions that could change my life.


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