The Chinese artist talks about how his incarceration helped his career, and why he’s embarrassed about his early work

For a man who in 2011 spent 81 days incarcerated without charge at the pleasure of the government of the People’s Republic of China, Ai Weiwei’s choice of Berlin studio is a curious one. Rather than an airy white room full of light, he has gone for the opposite: an extraordinary maze of underground cellars that were once the cooling warehouses for the Pfefferberg brewery. This cavernous labyrinth of huge, bare, brick-vaulted spaces serves as studio, store rooms, refectory and creative hub for Ai and his team, and in its Carthusian calm resembles a subterranean monastery. The place exudes a feeling of security but not necessarily of freedom.

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