Ai Weiwei, the Chinese provocateur who ranks among the world’s most popular artists, will have his first US retrospective in a decade at the Seattle Art Museum next year.

His last retrospective, held first at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. in 2012, was a hit, generating both critical acclaim and sizable crowds. This show will likewise feature a sampler of Ai’s work over the decades.

Opening on March 12, 2025, the show will include more than 100 works and will be curated by Foong Ping, a curator of Chinese art at the museum. In a phone conversation, Foong said the show will explore both Ai’s art and activism, and the intersections between the two.

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“I’m trying to balance the important moments of his life, so his life story, with the art itself,” Foong explained. “Why do we still look at it? What does it do that is so impactful?”

Ai’s practice has included smashing ancient Chinese vases, raising his middle finger to cultural sites of importance as a conceptual gesture, and arraying vast spaces with bicycles, faux sunflower seeds, and more. In recent years, he’s also become known for sculpting vast images out of Legos and rendering gigantic trees out of wood.

Foong said one goal is to shine a light on Ai’s art of the 1980s and ’90s, a period of his oeuvre that remains lesser-known in the US, even though he was based in the country for much of that era. During that time, Ai worked under the sign of Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, producing conceptual artworks that questioned authorship and invoked a number of social issues, from his status as a Chinese immigrant to the AIDS crisis.

Although many of those objects did figure in a sprawling retrospective mounted two years ago at the Albertina in Vienna, only rarely has Ai received expansive shows at this scale in the US.

Unlike many curators who’ve worked with Ai, Foong does not specialize in contemporary art. She mainly works with age-old Chinese works presented by the museum, and she said this moved to her to explore the art history that guides Ai. “My intention is to find some language that might describe trends and patterns, the things that have stood the test of time, the things that he thought about in his first decade and are still with him decades on,” she said.

Controversy has tended to follow Ai. He has been detained by the Chinese government after criticizing it, and he has spoken out in support of immigrants while living in locales that have not been receptive to them. More recently, his comments on social media about Israel and Hamas led his representative, Lisson Gallery, to postpone an exhibition.

Foong said her show would not shy away from the various controversies that have embroiled Ai. “He’s rebellious—he’s a provocateur,” she said. “That’s his job.”

While there are no other institutions currently set to host Foong’s survey, titled “Ai, Rebel: The Art and Activism of Ai Weiwei,” that may soon change. She said she is hoping to be able to travel the exhibition following the conclusion of its run in Seattle on September 7, 2025.