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Oh, the speed of the internet. A condition of Ai Weiwei’s recent release from Chinese custody was his silence on Twitter and the blogs, but the Chinese government said nothing about this new Google+ (at least for now). Seemingly in conjunction with a wonderful new show just opened at the Asia Society Museum  in New York, Ai has posted on (presumably) his Google+ account a huge file of the New York photographs from the  1980s and early 90s. Taken while he was a ’starving artist’ living in the Lower East Side and studying at Parsons, they are an indispensable document of a city now long gone. Ai was there for the infamous Tompkins Square riots, which marked the rapid rise of the East Village’s gentrification. One of the most whimsical and fascinating aspects of these photos  is how many ex-pat Chinese artists there were during those years in New York; indeed, some of the best images are Ai’s contemporaries (then and now), like Xu Bing and Tan Dun, sitting on top of taxis and clowning around outside seedy Times Square porn theaters.

Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983-1993
The Asia Society Museum
June 29-August 14, 2011

Photography by Ai Weiwei