Monday, April 4, 2011

Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Detained.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained Sunday at the Beijing airport and is still missing. Even his outstanding international reputation, he has a sculpture exhibition scheduled in Manhattan next month, was not enough to stop the Chinese from arresting him.

Ai Weiwei in his Bejing Studio March 7, 2011
Photograph by Andrew Jacobs, published April 3, 2011, New York Times

Human rights advocates believe that Weiwei's arrest is part of the Chinese government's latest crackdown on human rights with arrests of lawyers, bloggers and dissidents. Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch describes this as China's "attempt to redefine the limits of what kind of criticism is tolerable." Apparently Ai Weiwei's freedom of expression is intolerable to Chinese authorities and this is far from his first brush with the law.

Weiwei was raised in a labor camp in China's cold western deserts when his father, the poet Ai Qing, was exiled for being the "wrong kind" of intellectual. In 2009 Weiwei was seriously beaten by police the night before he was scheduled to testify on behalf of a fellow dissident. Larry Warsh, the founder of AW Asia, the contemporary Chinese art organization instrumental in organizing Weiwei's show next month in New York, said after the current arrest, "Weiwei is among the greatest living artists and thinkers, and a globally respected champion of human rights." which seems to be just what is getting him into so much trouble.

Ai Weiwei on TED Talks

Criticism is one of the primary roles of an artist in society but living in a police state makes this critique a particular challenge. Considering Ai Weiwei's success he could keep quiet and easily live in comfort like China's burgeoning nouveaux-riche class and yet he says, "as a human being, member of society, you must clearly state your mind. It's a responsibility … it is the way you identify yourself otherwise you don't know who you are and why you are here. I don't have a choice, it's the way I live."

Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo, Ai Weiwei, 1994

source: New York TimesThe Age, TED Talks 


  1. I very much appreciate this post and your work. Peace and continued good things for you in creativity and in life.