Photo courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio

At the 2018 LitFest Gala, PEN America will honor globally lauded artist Ai Weiwei with the Artistic Expression Award. Ai is renowned for making bold aesthetic statements that expose fault lines, unmask hypocrisies, and unleash empathy on a global scale. 

From architecture to installations, social media to documentaries, Ai Weiwei uses a wide range of mediums as expressions of new ways for his audiences to examine society and its values. Recent exhibitions include: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors with the Public Art Fund in New York City; Ai Weiwei on Porcelain at the Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul; Maybe, Maybe Not at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; and Ai Weiwei. Libero at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Ai was born in Beijing in 1957 and currently resides and works in Berlin. Ai is the current Einstein Visiting Professor at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and the 2012 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation. Ai’s first feature-length documentary, Human Flow, premiered at the 74th Venice Film Festival in competition.

“Ai Weiwei’s inventive, iconic, and utterly original lens on contemporary life both within and outside China have bridged the worlds of art and activism, awakening millions to the plight of refugees, government corruption, and human suffering. His dramatic, insistent, and impossible-to-forget films, artworks, and installations have jolted the art world, inspired millions, and stoked fear in the minds of governments alert to the power of creativity to spark social change. Ai Weiwei has, for decades, endured the personal price of harassment, intimidation, and constraints on his freedom in his determination to speak out and be a voice for those who cannot. PEN America has been proud to stand with Ai Weiwei in his courageous posture of artistic defiance, and is honored to present him with our Artistic Expression Award this year.”

Suzanne Nossel, Chief Executive Officer, PEN America