Have passport, will travel: where will Ai Weiwei go?

The Chinese artist-activist is due to visit Berlin, London and Melbourne

After the Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei announced yesterday (22 July) that he is free to travel, the art world is wondering about his itinerary and whether he will turn up at various institutions worldwide which are hosting shows dedicated to the artist this autumn.

On 22 July, Ai posted an image of himself on Instagram brandishing a People’s Republic of China passport with the caption: “Today I got my passport.” The artist-activist had his passport confiscated when he was detained by the Chinese government in Beijing in 2011.

The news comes just eight weeks before his solo show at the Royal Academy of Arts, which issued a statement confirming that Ai will be "travelling to London for his landmark exhibition". Tim Marlow, the Royal Academy’s artistic director, says: "We are delighted to announce that he will be joining us as we finalise the installation of his exhibition." 

Meanwhile, a major two-hander show, Andy Warhol/Ai Weiwei, is due to open at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne (11 December-24 April 2016). “We have heard from Ai that all being well he will come to Australia,” says a gallery spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, Ai has said that his first trip abroad will be to see his son in Berlin, Germany. The Art Newspaper understands that he is also developing a studio in Berlin next door to the headquarters of the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.

Ai’s sculpture series, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (2010), comprising 12 bronze animal heads that represent the traditional Chinese zodiac, continues its world tour, launching at the Contemporary Art Centre in Málaga (CAC) in the autumn (18 September-10 December). A spokeswoman says that Ai has not yet confirmed if he will attend the vernissage.

The organisers of an exhibition at the Helsinki Art Museum (Ai Weiwei@Helsinki, 25 September-28 February 2016), say that they have invited Ai to the opening, and are awaiting a response. The artist’s studio could not be reached for comment.

Crucially, Ai is not concerned about being forced into exile if he travels abroad. “I think if the authorities let me go, I’m sure they will let me back. They have been quite reasonable,” he told The Guardian. He will also have to obtain visas to gain entry to different countries.