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In Photos: Ai Weiwei Goes To Alcatraz

Back in the the late ’30s, gangster Al Capone and his fellow inmates at San Francisco’s Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary could never have imagined that less than a century later, their notorious island would house a giant rainbow dragon kite with Twitter logos for eyes, Lego portraits of famous political activists, and a five-ton sculpture of a bird’s wing. But such is the curious evolution of the military fortress-turned-federal prison-turned-tourist attraction: These are among the seven large-scale sculpture, sound, and mixed-media works on view in @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, the first exhibit of its kind on the island.

FOR-SITE Foundation Executive Director Cheryl Haines with Ai Weiwei at the artist’s studio in BeijingJan Stürmann/FOR-SITE Foundation

The Beijing-based Ai drew inspiration for the exhibition from the stories of prisoners around the world and his personal life. In 2011, Ai was detained by the Chinese government for 81 days on tax evasion charges. After his release, he was forbidden from leaving Beijing for a year, and is still not permitted to leave China. He had to leave the actual construction of the exhibit to collaborators, including organizers at the For-Site Foundation, Bay Area volunteers, and Amnesty International. Click the slide show above for images and more information about the exhibition.

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz opens September 27.

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