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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei gets his passport back

The PBS NewsHour reported on Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s 2014 installation in Alcatraz in December. 

The Chinese government returned artist and activist Ai Weiwei’s passport Wednesday after holding it since 2011. Ai posted a picture of himself with a Chinese passport on Instagram with the caption “Today, I got my passport,” the Associated Press reported.

A dissident artist who has drawn worldwide attention for bold installations and criticisms of the Chinese government, Ai was detained in China for 81 days beginning in April 2011 and released on probation in June of that year. The government kept his passport, leaving him unable to travel internationally.

During that time, Ai organized events and exhibitions remotely from China. In the past four years his work has appeared around the world, including at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. and the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 2012, at New York City’s Brooklyn Museum in 2013 and at London’s Lisson Gallery in 2014, among others.  Ai recreated his time in detention with a series of dioramas secretly constructed in China and transported to Venice in 2013 for an exhibition.

His installation in Alcatraz in 2014, for which Ai received approval from the U.S. State Department and worked with the FOR-SITE Foundation, explored the definition of freedom and human rights within one of the U.S.’s most famous prisons. Never having visited the prison, he studied maps and diagrams of the space as he planned the installation, Smithsonian Magazine reported. In June, he staged his first solo exhibition in China after a process of pre-approval by the authorities.

On Nov. 30, 2013, Ai began protesting his lack of ability to travel by placing a bouquet of fresh flowers on his bike outside his studio each morning. He said on Twitter that today’s bouquet was number 600.

The Associated Press reported that Ai will travel to London in September for an exhibition of his work at Britain’s Royal Academy of Arts, according to Royal Academy director Tim Marlow.

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