Inside “Ai Weiwei: Trace”

2 minutes read

LEGO portraits as a political statement. Since 2007, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has assembled thousands of bricks to voice human rights.

Here is a look at” Ai Weiwei: Trace.”

A series of portraits

In 2011, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei was detained under house arrest in Beijing, China. He started to portrait activists and prisoners using LEGO bricks. The first exhibit was in Alcatraz, San Francisco, in 2014. Since then, the installation has been shown in many cities.

The Skirball exhibit displays 83 of the original 176 portraits.

In addition to the portraits, look closely at the wallpaper. Here is another political statement with golden handcuffs, surveillance cameras, and Twitter logos.


Ai Weiwei continues his LEGO artwork. In 2019, he portrayed 43 Mexican students who disappeared and were reportedly killed in Iguala on September 26th, 2014 [the case is still under investigation].

About the artist

Since the 70s, Ai Weiwei expands his art through various forms such as sculpture, photography, paintings, and much more.

Ai Weiwei

Did you know?

Ai Weiwei was inspired by his young son playing with LEGO

Trace highlights individuals who are or were in prison because of their political actions, and beliefs. The artist did his researches in complement to human rights organizations information.

Did you know?

A friend supplied Legos in suitcases from America.


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – South Africa

“Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician. He was sentenced on four counts of sabotage and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government and, in 1964, he was sentenced to life in prison. He was released in 1990 and served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, among more than two hundred and fifty honors he received before his death in 2013. “


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

Meriam Ibrahim – Sudan

“Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father but raised as an Orthodox Christian, and married a Christian man. She was convicted of apostasy and adultery. Under Shari’a law in Sudan, the marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim is considered adultery. The charge of apostasy was added when the court learned that Ibrahim was raised as a Christian. In 2014, she was sentenced to death and one hundred lashes. Her conviction was later overturned and she was released in July 2014. Arrested while trying to leave Sudan, she took refuge at the US Embassy and was granted asylum in the US in 2014.”


Meriam Ibrahim – Sudan

Reeyot Alemu – Ethiopia

Alemu is a journalist, founder of a publishing house, and editor of the magazine Feteh. Her articles cover social and political affairs as well as poverty and gender issues. She was sentenced in 2011 under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. In 2012, she received the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation. She was released in July 2015 after serving four years in prison.”


Reeyot Alemu – Ethiopia

Ready to visit this exhibit?

*COVID-19 update as of July 2021*

– Please wear a mask and practice a physical distance of 6 feet between yourself and others

– Please check L.A County’s health and safety protocols before your walk

Plan your visit:

  • Exhibit on view from May 15th – August 1st, 2021
  • Location: Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049
  • Hours: 12:30pm – 4:00pm on weekdays and, 10:30 am-4:00pm on weekend.
  • Admission: $12 per adult, free on Thursday. Advance timed-entry reservations are required.
  • Free mobile guide with QR-code
  • Duration: I spent 30 minutes to discover it (timed ticked limited to 1 hour)
  • Parking: a free on-site lot
  • More information available at

Article based on my visit in July 2021

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