Koestler Arts: Freedom

27 Oct-18 Dec 2022


Koestler Arts marks the 60th anniversary of the Koestler Awards with an ambitious exhibition of art by people in the UK’s criminal justice system, curated by Ai Weiwei.

The Koestler Awards is an annual programme encouraging people from the UK’s criminal justice system to change their lives through the arts.

The vision for this year’s exhibition is inspired by Ai Weiwei’s visit to the Koestler Arts building, which currently holds over 6,500 artworks entered into this year’s awards.

Taken aback by the quantity of artworks and the range of categories on display, the artist’s concept evolved to be as inclusive as possible and to let the artwork show how humanity responds when put in extreme circumstances.

This year, the exhibition space is being transformed physically to realise this vision, helping to preserve the environment within which the artworks are made.

The aim is to not ‘translate’ the work but to retain the wholeness of it. Ai Weiwei explains this idea with an analogy: he wants to present the forest, not just a branch that comes from it.

During his curation period, the artist also visited HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs, which is situated next to the Koestler Arts Centre.

Having visited many prisons around the world, as well as experiencing his own restriction of freedom during a period of secret detention and constant surveillance in China, this additional visit to HMP Wormwood Scrubs helped to strengthen and confirm the vision for the exhibition.