Sunday, 29 May 2011

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei is all over the Arts pages of the weekend supplements at the moment; his initial 'disappearance' and the subsequent admission by the Chinese government of his house arrest have been big news, particularly given his recent sunflower seeds Turbine Hall exhibition at Tate Modern.

Ai was last seen publicly about to board a plane in Hong Kong, before Chinese authorities detained him. The state-run newspaper the Global Times ran an editorial ominously stating that "Ai Weiwei [...] has been close to the red line of Chinese law. As long as Ai Weiwei continuously marches forward, he will inevitably touch the red line one day. Ai Weiwei will be judged by history, but he will pay a price for his special choice." 

Since then, the Chinese government have suggested issues to do with tax evasion are behind his arrest, but little more has been revealed, despite an enormous international outcry. Artists such as Anish Kapoor have called for protest days by galleries and museums world-wide (let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was using the publicity of the opening of his own show to highlight Ai, rather than vice versa...). 

Somerset House is currently exhibiting Ai Weiwei's 'Circle of Animals', a series of huge zodiacal bronze heads. 

I popped into the Lisson Gallery at the weekend to take a look at their own mini-retrospective of Ai's work. 

I have to say I was pretty underwhelmed by the work; Han Dynasty vases overpainted in industrial paint, security cameras hewn out of marble, and coffins constructed out of dismantled temples of the Qing Dynasty are to my mind, pretty obvious visual statements.  That said, Ai's disturbing arrest highlights how threatened the Chinese governments feels about such blatant criticism of their authoritative and paranoid regime. 

Follow the situation at

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