Arts & CulturePress Release

Ai Weiwei makes first US retrospective exhibit in over a decade with Ai, Rebel: The Art and Activism of Ai Weiwei

SEATTLE, USA — The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) announces that it will present a major retrospective in 2025 for Ai Weiwei, one of the world’s most well-known and celebrated artists. Ai, Rebel: The Art and Activism of Ai Weiwei (March 12- September 07, 2025) will be the artist’s first US retrospective in over a decade and his largest-ever exhibition in the US. It also marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in Seattle. Ai, Rebe/ will explore over 100 works created across four decades, from the 1980s to the 2020s, offering visitors from all over the world a rare opportunity to engage with the conceptual artist’s wide-ranging body of work. Organized by the Seattle Art Museum and curated by FOONG Ping, SAM’s Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art, this career-spanning exhibition highlights Ai as a provocateur and identifies his key strategies for disrupting artistic canons and challenging political authoritarianism. 

“This is a major moment for the Seattle Art Museum,” said José Carlos Diaz, SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art. “Ai Weiwei’s work is thrilling, challenging, and thought-provoking, speaking to the most urgent issues of our time. There will be something exciting for everyone to discover in his playful and large-scale spectacles of ideas.” 

The work of Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957) thrives on making familiar life unfamiliar again, consistently calling upon viewers to explore social, cultural, and political issues and to contemplate the ways in which personal and universal experiences are enmeshed. Ai, Rebel will feature iconic works from Ai’s career, including Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), Study of Perspective (1995-2011), several examples from his Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo series, Sunflower Seeds (2010), and Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (Gold) (2010). The exhibition will also debut works never shown in the US, including Marble Sofa (2011), a carving of an ordinary leather sofa, and The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus in Untitled (After Rubens) (2020), in which Peter Paul Rubens’s 1618 painting is recreated in LEGO bricks with a twist: the cherub is replaced by a panda as a humorous reference to state surveillance. 

“Ai Weiwei’s work cultivates an explosive tension between medium and meaning to dazzle the senses and stimulate the intellect,” said FOONG. “It plays the subtle line between what is artistically and socially acceptable to provoke shock, laughter, tears, and it makes us reconsider what is trash versus treasure or genuine versus counterfeit. We watch Ai’s commitment to watching those in power and are reminded of our own agency for collective resistance.” 

“l am delighted to have the opportunity to exhibit my artworks at the Seattle Art Museum, an occasion I have eagerly anticipated,” commented Ai Weiwei. “This collaboration provides a wonderful chance to reconnect and exchange ideas with audiences in the United States, an opportunity that has been long overdue. Over the past decades, my artistic and design endeavors have spanned a broad spectrum. I regard art as my life, and my life is deeply intertwined with my artistic expression, encompassing both traditional and non-traditional ways. Living in today’s world, having the opportunity to convey the complexities and profundities of our era through an artist’s perspective is a privilege I deeply cherish. I am looking forward to this exhibition, which I hope will soak both interest and thoughtful reflection among the attendees.” 

Exhibitions of Ai Weiwei’s work have brought sold-out crowds around the world, so the museum anticipates high demand and is making preparations for the best visitor experience. To increase access, SAM planned an extended run of six months, beyond its usual exhibition timeframe. Timed ticketing will increase access to the museum and improve flow in the galleries.

Ticket release dates will be announced in advance so that visitors can plan ahead. SAM members will have additional opportunities for access, including early access to reserve timeslots, member-only days, and member-exclusive events. 

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