Gallery: Ai Weiwei's Photos of NYC Life Make Their US Debut

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For the first time outside of China, over 200 photographs by recently released artist Ai Weiwei are on view in Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983 – 1993, an exhibition presented by Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing in association with the Asia Society Museum in New York. Before Ai became an internationally recognized artist and activist, he lived in the East Village amongst expatriate Chinese intellectuals and artists. His images document some of the most critical and defining events of the period, as well as the general atmosphere of the time; highlights of the exhibition include photos of a reading by Allen Ginsburg, riots in the parks of the East Village, drag queens at Wigstock, and a visit by Bill Clinton, as well as artful self-portraits, and portraits of notable Chinese intellectuals, like the filmmaker Chen Kaige and composer Tan Dun. In addition to the beauty and significance of these images as artifacts, the show offers a rare look into the thoughts and attitudes of a burgeoning conceptual artist. Click through for a preview.

Bill Clinton at his last campaign stop in New York. 1992. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. © Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of the artist and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.

Ai Weiwei. Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 1983. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. © Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of the artist and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.

Chen Kaige. Lower East Side, 1986. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. © Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of the artist and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.

Outside Tompkins Square Park. 1986. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. © Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of the artist and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.

Tan Dun. East 3rd Street Apartment. 1986. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. © Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of the artist and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.

Mirror. 1987. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. © Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of the artist and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.

Self-Portrait. 1987. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. © Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of the artist and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.

Abandoned Building on the Lower East Side. 1987. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. © Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of the artist and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.

Washington Square Park Protest. 1988. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. © Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of the artist and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.

Tawana Brawley Protest. 1988. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. © Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of the artist and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.

Robert Frank & Allen Ginsberg. 1989. Inkjet on Fantac Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss. Printed on 20 x 24-inch paper. © Ai Weiwei. Courtesy of the artist and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Chambers Fine Art.