The gripping story of post-Mao China and the harrowing fate of the artist and activist Ai Weiwei
In October 2010, Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds appeared in the Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern. In April 2011, he was arrested and held for more than two months in terrible conditions. The most famous living Chinese artist and activist, Weiwei is a figure of extraordinary talent, courage, and integrity. From the beginning of his career, he has spoken out against the world’s most powerful totalitarian regime, in part by creating some of the most beautiful and mysterious artworks of our age, works which have touched millions around the world.
Just after Ai Weiwei’s release from illegal detention, Barnaby Martin flew to Beijing to interview him about his imprisonment and to learn more about what is really going on behind the scenes in the upper echelons of the Chinese Communist Party. Based on these interviews and Martin’s own intimate connections with China, Hanging Man is an exploration of Weiwei’s life, art, and activism and also a meditation on the creative process, and on the history of art in modern China. It is a rich picture of the man and his milieu, of what he is trying to communicate with his art, and of the growing campaign for democracy and accountability in China. It is a book about courage and hope found in the absence of freedom and justice.
“Martin's vivid and affecting portrait attests both to Weiwei's now severely restricted circumstances and his undiminished spirit and conviction as an artist of conscience and a resounding champion for freedom and democracy, responsibility and justice.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist
“Engaging and timely . . . Martin takes care to establish the historical, political, and artistic context of Ai’s work . . . An excellent introduction to Ai and the power of contemporary Chinese art.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A book that offers great clarity on an important subject without succumbing to oversimplification.”—Kirkus (starred review)
“[Martin's] fascinating, well-written book has many layers . . . Martin does an excellent job in linking Ai’s case to that of other intellectuals and artists, and to the broader issues China faces.”—Jonathan Fenby, The Times
“Fascinating ... Hanging Man is a compelling study of Ai's work and significance.”—Stuart Kelly, Scotsman
“Martin's passion for the integrity of the artists and writers who pioneered China's artistic renaissance after Mao lifts this account . . . The result is a memorable snapshot of the inspiring figures who remain true to their creative ideals in today's China, despite the official repression of originality.”—Isabel Hilton, The Guardian
“Hanging Man is the most detailed, comprehensive and eloquent English-language account of what happens these days to Chinese political prisoners . . . I want to underline how grateful I am to Martin for eluding Ai's guards and giving the artist an unequalled chance to explain what befell him . . . This is an invaluable book.” —Jonathan Mirsky, Literary Review