Ai Weiwei Show on Alcatraz Island

  • The artist, Ai Weiwei.

    The artist, Ai Weiwei.

  • San Francisco's Alcatraz, the site of Ai Weiwei's latest exhibition.

    San Francisco's Alcatraz, the site of Ai Weiwei's latest exhibition.

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Once a military fortress, then a federal penitentiary, and now a national park, San Francisco Bay’s Alcatraz Island is adding yet another incarnation to its list of lives, this time as a temporary showcase for the work of Ai Weiwei. For @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz (through Apr. 26, 2015; nps.gov), the Chinese artist–cum-political-activist created seven large-scale installations of sculpture, sound, and mixed media themed around incarceration and personal freedom. Funded by US$75,000 raised through a Kickstarter campaign, the exhibition is presented in part by the For-Site Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to supporting site-specific art, and Ai created each installation with its location in mind—the main and psychiatric wards of the hospital, the A Block military prison cells, the New Industries building—all otherwise off-limits with the exception of the Dining Hall. Such nuance is impressive considering Ai, who has not been permitted to leave China since 2011, has never set foot on the island. –Gabrielle Lipton

 This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Ai Site”)

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