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Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Makes Presence Felt at Brooklyn Museum

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Since being arrested in 2011, Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has not ben allowed to leave China, but that doesn't mean he hasn't overseen the entire scope of an exhibition of his work that has just opened at the Brooklyn Museum. NY1's Stephanie Simon filed the following report.

Being a target of the Chinese government has made outspoken artist Ai Weiwei one of the best-known contemporary artists in the world. Despite having his passport revoked by the Chinese government, Ai is making presence felt at the Brooklyn Museum through his artwork and a video message.

"To have a show here in Brooklyn but same time, not allowed to attend, it also reflects on my condition," he says. "And my condition, which is not only mine. It reflects so many regular poets, musicians in the society like China."

He's also been in constant contact with the museum.

"A lot of emails back and forth, all hours of the day and night," says Sharon Matt Atkins, managing curator at the Brooklyn Museum.

Ai lived in NY in the '80s and early '90s, starting out in Williamsburg. Because of his affection for the city, he created several works just for this exhibit, including S.A.C.R.E.D., his first major work after being imprisoned for 81 days in 2011 amid accusations of tax evasion. It's widely believed he's been targeted because of his outspoken criticism of the government on issues of human rights abuse and corruption.

Most of the work here explores freedom, politics, and identity.

"The wonderful thing about this installation is, when you look through the center opening of the chests, you see the phases of the moon," Atkins says.

"Two large bowls filled with fresh water pearls. It's really a comment on the individual," she adds.

To coincide with this exhibit, a new film called "Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case" will open in New York in May. It's about the government attempts to prosecute the artist and his determination to continue to make art.

If you want to add your voice to this conversation, you can. Brooklyn Museum is asking visitors, "What does your activism look like?" You can answer that by taking pictures and posting them with the hashtag #activism.

There is special ticketing for the exhibit. It's up through August 10. For more information, go to www.brooklynmuseum.org.

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