Finally able to travel outside his home country of China, Ai Weiwei posted a photo on Instagram today of himself holding his passport, which was confiscated by the Chinese government in April 2011 while the designer tried to fly from Beijing to Hong Kong. Ai was detained for 81 days for his outspoken criticisms of the Communist Party and later prosecuted by the government with tax evasion and intentional destruction of accounting documents. Two months later, he was released on probation, but the government never returned his passport. In a statement given to The New York Times, Ai said he had not received any indication as to why his passport was returned at this time.
Although he has not been able to leave China for the past four years, Ai has exhibited his art all over the world by creating his installations remotely and working with exhibit organizers. His recent global works include a collaboration with Herzog & de Meuron on the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London and an exhibition in 2014 at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. Ai’s installation at the California’s infamous prison was especially significant because, as a Sept. 2014 press release explained: "The exhibition [was] not simply an exploration of social issues or artistic themes; it [was] rooted in the reality of his life."
Ai is currently exhibiting his first solo show in China, featuring a Ming Dynasty ancestral temple split in two.