Royal Festival Hall, London
27 October – 18 December 2023

The Koestler Arts fifteenth Annual UK Exhibition in partnership with the Southbank Centre was curated by Chinese contemporary artist, documentarian, and activist, Ai Weiwei. 2022 marked the 60th anniversary of the Koestler Awards and Ai Weiwei wanted this landmark exhibition to be ‘the most ambitious yet’. I lead the team to produce this large scale display, which included over 1,850 artworks made by people across the UK’s criminal justice sector.

The vision for this exhibition was inspired by Weiwei’s visit to the Koestler Arts building, which, each year, houses over 6,000 pieces of artwork entered into the Koestler Awards. Taken aback by the quantity of artworks and the range of categories on display, Weiwei’s concept evolved; to be as inclusive as possible and to let the artwork show how humanity responds when put in extreme circumstances.

The exhibition space was transformed. Ai Weiwei’s design comprised fifteen cell spaces that were based on the size of a typical cell in a UK prison, which roughly measures 1.8m by 3m. Each cell contained a multitude of work, with the smallest containing 78 and the largest containing 131. Once through the corridor of cells, visitors had the chance to listen to music and watch animation and films before entering the final section of the exhibition, a room filled with sculptures and poetry.