Ai Weiwei is China’s best known living artist and the most high-profile critic of the country’s government.
He has spoken out about human rights abuses, called for political reform and made allegations of widespread corruption – none of which sit comfortably with the ruling Communist Party.
In 2010, the authorities demolished his studio in Shanghai – they said he had not obtained planning permission – and the following year he was detained at Beijing Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Hong Kong. He was released 81 days later.
Ai has depicted scenes from his incarceration in a work called S.A.C.R.E.D., on display at the Church of Sant’Antonin in Venice until 15 September. The work consists of six hulking, iron boxes containing dioramas that show the indignities of imprisonment: squalor, surveillance and constant supervision.
Alastair Sooke and Bendor Grosvenor visit the church and take a look.