ARTnewsletter Archive

Art World Anxiously Awaits News on Ai Weiwei

On April 3, Chinese police detained Ai Weiwei at Beijing International Airport as the world-renowned artist was set to board a plane to Hong Kong.

NEW YORK—On April 3, Chinese police detained Ai Weiwei at Beijing International Airport as the world-renowned artist was set to board a plane to Hong Kong. As ARTnewsletter went to press, there was no news on the artist’s whereabouts or condition of incarceration, alarming both the art world and human rights activists alike. His Beijing studio was raided later on the same morning he was detained and several of his staffers were arrested as well.

Ai, known for designing the Birds Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games and a recent major installation of porcelain sunflower seeds at London’s Tate, has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, addressing topics such as corruption and cover-ups. A recent focus of his blog questioned the quality of construction of Sichuan schools which collapsed during an earthquake in 2008.

The Mary Boone Gallery has a show of new work by Ai scheduled for September. Director Ron Warren told ARTnewsletter, “We were in conversation with the artist about what he would be showing and how many pieces there would be.” The gallery, which has represented Ai in North America since 2006, still hopes to hold that exhibition, but realizes that the artist would have to be released in time to complete any remaining artworks as well as allowing enough time for the works to be shipped.

“We sell everything we get by him,” Warren said, noting that the only work by the artist currently at the gallery, is a wooden table carved as a semi-abstract sculpture, priced at $300,000. Ai’s work is often a revealing commentary on Chinese authorities and that table follows suit, according to Warren. “A lot of his work reflects criticism of how China is destroying its past, or reconfiguring it.”

London’s Lisson Gallery, which began representing the artist in December, has scheduled its first-solo Ai Weiwei show to open May 13. “The Lisson exhibition will still be going ahead in May,” a spokeswoman for the gallery said, though she declined to comment on whether any works by the artist are already at the gallery.

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