Mr. Ai worked as a street artist while he lived in New York, charging $15 to $25 for a portrait in Times Square. As a photographer, he documented the 1988 Tompkins Square Park disturbance; notable figures like Bill Clinton, Robert Frank and Allen Ginsberg; and other Chinese artists and intellectuals like Wang Ying, a film director, and Tan Dun, a composer. His self-portraits reveal a dissident-to-be in hot-spots-to-be. (“Before Fame, or Jail, Ai Weiwei Was a New York ‘Starving Artist,’ ” City Room, May 13, 2011).
A Chinese Dissident Views New York (Lens/New York Times)