One of China's most influential cultural figures, Ai Weiwei is a contemporary artist, curator, and social, political, and cultural critic. Born in Beijing in 1957, Ai came to New York in 1981, where he created conceptual art by altering ready-made objects. He returned to Beijing in 1993 and began a series of projects that proved critical to the development of experimental art in China. Often employing his country's cultural artifacts by way of destruction and manipulation, his work represents and addresses China's traditions. In 1999, Ai moved to Caochangdi on the outskirts of Beijing, China, where he built and opened his studio, FAKE Design. In addition to being known for his frank and witty artwork, Ai has also drawn attention for his political activism. His outspokenness has resulted in frequent run-ins with Chinese authorities. In 2009, after his "Citizens' Investigation" project, which researched and published information about students who died in the 2008 Sichuan province earthquake, Ai sustained a head injury during an altercation with police. He was arrested in 2011 while attempting to travel to Hong Kong. After an international outcry, Ai was released but forbidden from leaving Beijing, where he remains today. Ai's work has been exhibited in Australia, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, and the United States, and has also been commissioned by the Tate Modern in London. He was a speaker at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2006 and a runner-up for TIME magazine's Person of the Year in 2011. His numerous awards and honors include The Wall Street Journal's Innovator of the Year Award and The Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation Award for Courage.
Santiago Calatrava's name has been most closely associated with his celebrated designs of bridges and transportation centers built throughout the world. Highlights of his work include designs for The Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin (2001), the Athens Olympic Sports Complex (2004), the Light Rail Train Bridge in Jerusalem (2007), the Quarto Ponte sul Canal Grande in Venice (2008), the Liège-Guillemins TGV Railway Station in Belgium (2009), the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas (2012) and the Peace Bridge in Calgary (2012). He is currently working on a variety of design and construction projects throughout the world including The World Trade Center Transportation Hub in New York City, the Margaret McDermott Bridge in Dallas, Città dello Sport, Rectorate and Campus Master Plan for Roma II University in Tor Vergata, Italy, and Yuan Ze University in Taiwan.
Kathryn C. Chenault
Kathryn C. Chenault has devoted the past several years to supporting educational institutions, health care organizations, and the arts. A former practicing attorney, Chenault currently serves on the boards of the NYU School of Law, Tufts University, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Hospital for Special Surgery, and the Municipal Art Society of New York. She has also had an active role in supporting the Harlem Children's Zone, the Abyssinian Development Corporation, and currently serves as a member of the International Council of The Museum of Modern Art. Her tireless commitment to the welfare of young people is often demonstrated through her support of numerous scholarship funds and her development of mentoring programs with diverse educational institutions.
Philippe de Montebello
In 2008, Philippe de Montebello retired after 31 years as the longest-serving director in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's 140-year-long history. Under de Montebello's leadership, The Metropolitan Museum nearly doubled in size, vastly increasing its exhibition space. The Metropolitan also acquired significant collections and individual masterpieces, mounted acclaimed international loan exhibitions, developed wide-reaching educational programs, and reinstalled much of its permanent collections in new and refurbished galleries. In 2008, the curators of the Metropolitan Museum paid homage to de Montebello's tenure by mounting an unprecedented tribute exhibition of some 300 works of art that entered the collections under his leadership, titled "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions." Following his retirement, de Montebello became the first scholar in residence at the Prado Museum in Madrid, and he launched a new academic career as the first Fiske Kimball Professor in the History and Culture of Museums at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University; he is also a special advisor for NYU's Abu Dhabi campus. De Montebello is the television co-host with Paula Zahn of the WNET/PBS weekly culture series NYCArts. He also serves as special advisor to the Leon Levy Foundation. In 2008, he was elected to the board of trustees of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and in 2012, was elected honorary trustee of the Prado Museum in Madrid. In 2003, President G.W. Bush awarded de Montebello the National Medal of the Arts and President of the United States Barack Obama awarded him the National Medal of the Humanities in 2009. De Montebello is the only the fourth person to have received both the U.S. National Medal of the Arts and the National Medal of the Humanities. He is Officier de la Légion d'Honneur and Officier des Arts et des Lettres; Knight Commander, Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great; Orden de Isabella la Católica, Encomienda de Numéro; Japan's Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star; Commendatore, Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy; and Officier de l'Ordre de Léopold, Royaume de Belgique. In 1996, de Montebello was declared a Living Landmark by New York City's Landmarks Commission.
Text: Kate Ünver
Photos: Courtesy of Ai Weiwei; Michael Falco; courtesy of Kathryn C. Chenault, Esq.; courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art