November 6, 2014


“An artist’s core values are to fight for your rights and clearly express who you are.”

So speaks Ai Weiwei from his studio in China where he is under house arrest for his long-standing and controversial work targeting corruption in the Chinese government. When his own government has tried to silence his voice, Ai Weiwei has reached his influence overseas, designing and directing art installations around the world that he may never be able to visit himself. One of these exhibits is right here in the Bay Areaexploring the themes of personal freedom, liberties, independence and privacy in one of the most notorious prisons in the world. In honor of this exhibit new areas of Alcatraz have been opened to the public for the first time in history — such as a manufacturing floor and a wing of the hospital, where these fragile and beautiful porcelain flowers grow up out of every drain.


Note the icon forming the pupil of this otherwise traditional Chinese dragon?

Ai Weiwei is a huge fan of social media, which has helped promote free speech and information around the world. He has asked everyone who – unlike him – can physically visit his installation to spread the word in any way they can. Despite the hype I’d heard and how much I was looking forward to visiting the exhibit, I was still completely blown away by the entire experience. I urge you to visit the work yourself if you can – if you live in or are traveling to the Bay Area, especially if you’re visiting Alcatraz anyway. Ai Weiwei is a world renowned artist who’s work has never come to the West Coast before; each installation is as beautiful as it is provoking and trouble, such as the giant floor piece composing the faces of 176 people from around the world who have been arrested or exiled because of their beliefs or affiliations.  If you can’t, please explore his work and legacy online — he is a fascinating and incredibly talented activist and artist.

_MG_3059_MG_3108aiweiwei _MG_3098

How to Get There: Book your tickets to the exhibit and Alcatraz here

Exhibit Dates: September 27 2014 to April 26 2015

What to Bring: If you’re planning on making a day of it, bring a picnic as there is no food sold on the island. Good shoes are a must, and of course bring your phone and a camera. Ai Weiwei has provided free wifi in any room carrying his exhibit to encourage sharing the experience on social media (#Aiweiweialcatraz)

More info: Ai Weiwei has been working for decades and there’s so much to share about him – this 50 min documentary from the BBC does a great job and is really interesting to watch.


 Has anyone else been to see this — or any other — of his exhibits? What did you think?  Tell me all about it in the comments. Another big thanks to MB Maher for all of the above photographs. I hope you all have a great weekend! I’ll see you next week with more stories from the Bay to share with you — until next time do stay in touch with me over at pinteresttwitterinstagram, or facebook.


  1. Free wifi in every room? (I realize this is an incredibly strange thing to have as a first reaction, but I LOVE the interaction of that planning as it relates to the rest of the exhibit. :)) Can you believe I’ve never even been to Alcatraz? I think this is the PERFECT time to remedy that.

    • jm

      This is the PERFECT time to remedy that! How exciting – you’ve definitely got to pack a lunch and give yourself lots of time! And lol — I was really impressed about the wifi too, along with the encouragement from the staff to take photos and video to immediately share on social media. Very different vibe for an exhibit!

  2. Wowee! I can’t believe that photo of the flower! What luck you got to see them so close! The light in your photos is so different then mine on the night tour. I’ll be sharing mine in January (editorial calendar somehow ended up packed until the new year).


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