The artist's international stature grew with solo exhibitions in New York, London, and Tokyo at the same time the market for modern Chinese art was hitching wild rides on the country's hurtling economy. In Beijing, Wei watched artist friends become successful and wealthy, but he became increasingly disappointed that their discussions, once about new ideas, had turned to money. There was still occasional political troubledespite the avant-garde's popularity, the government hadn't abandoned its role as authoritative judge. "You think it's OK," Wei says, speaking of a gallery opening, "then the second day they close your show. It's still happening." In 2001, eager to join his wife-to-be Daisy who'd moved to the U.S., Wei left China, eventually settling with Daisy in a small apartment in Hoboken. "The best environment for an artist to go forward," Wei says, "is a new place. No one really knows your style."
These days, his style has returned to that first love, the rice-paper landscape, which he has overlaid with pink, cloudlike images of women, naked, voluptuous, and seductive. They appear above dainty trees like forbidden dreams, all of them Asian, except for oneMarilyn Monroe. "I like her face," Wei explains. "I think she was one of the most beautiful women in the world." Then, as if to emphasize the cultural blend of East and West in his work, he adds, "Her face looks Asian, don't you think?