Censorship China

To support Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor rejects China show

British Council had asked the artist to consider a show in Tiananmen Square

Kapoor is not Beijing-bound

london. Anish Kapoor has cancelled plans to present his sculptures at the National Museum of China in Beijing, in protest against the continuing detention of Ai Weiwei. He had been asked by the British Council to consider a show at the newly renovated museum in Tiananmen Square as part the “UK Now” festival in China late next year.

Kapoor’s spokeswoman confirmed to The Art Newspaper that he had been invited to China, but “he is not going to proceed in view of the detention of Ai Weiwei.” Ai, an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, was arrested in Beijing in early April for alleged “economic crimes”.

Discussions began about a potential exhibition at the National Museum of China last October, when two directors of London’s Lisson Gallery (which represents Kapoor, stand 2.1/K12 at Art Basel) were in Beijing. Provisional plans were subsequently made for Kapoor to travel to Beijing this month to view the space and talk with the museum. The idea would have been to mount an exhibition with a major new work.

Kapoor has been outspoken in his criticism of the Chinese government’s treatment of Ai Weiwei, since his detention on 3 April. On 10 May, when he opened his Leviathan installation at the Grand Palais in Paris, he dedicated it to the Chinese artist, describing his detention as “barbaric”. Once Kapoor had spoken out, it was realised that his participation in the “UK Now” festival would be difficult. A British Council spokeswoman stressed that the exhibition proposal had been at “a very early stage, and until he had seen the space we could not have proceeded”.

British Council chief executive Martin Davidson believes in “freedom of cultural expression”, but is keen for the programme to go ahead. He commented: “It is through cultural exchange that we best demonstrate the benefits of free artistic expression and build supportive links between people in the UK and China.”

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Comments

17 Jun 11
7:41 CET

ONEMORETIME, CLEVELAND, OHIO

Thank you Mr. Kapoor for 'walking the walk!' You have integrity. Interesting idea, though, regarding filling a room (there at the exhibition) with Ai's photos....wonder if the Chinese would allow it to remain installed?

16 Jun 11
18:26 CET

CRISTINA KARLSTAM, UPPSALA, SWEDEN

Thank you, Anish Kapoor! In Venice recently I was proud to wear the red Ai Weiwei-bag during the press days. We all must protest against the way of treating the artist. Cristina Karlstam, art critic

15 Jun 11
22:11 CET

ANONYMOUS, TAMPERE

If only had taken the room and filled it with pictures and statues of Ai Wei-Wei combined with Nobel Peace Prize winners of recent years... That might have shown the kind of culture we come from in the West, cultural exchange is soft power - it is not pressure. It is not even on the force continuum.

15 Jun 11
18:53 CET

KATHERINE CAMPBELL, INDIANAPOLIS

Thank you, Mr. Kapoor. Museums need to do what you have done for Ai Weiwei.

15 Jun 11
17:48 CET

ALEXANDRA PESCH, PALM BEACH

Thumbs up for Kapoor. Artists works are based on the freedom of expression. If the art world does not protest massively against A W's imprisonment, than they accept undermining the base on which any artist in the world works. Art is peaceful, peaceful expression and political protest in artistic manner need to be allowed . Any international organization who allows an exhibition to take place in the new center on Tanaman Square should be ashamed of themselves under the current circumstances. This is what China wants to achieve through art exibitions there, come and forget about the killings and forget about Ai Wei Wei too.

15 Jun 11
13:16 CET

MASJALIZA HAMZAH, KUALA LUMPUR

Thanks to Anish Kapoor for putting Ai Weiwei back in the spotlight!

15 Jun 11
13:12 CET

SUSIE PANESAR, BRISTOL

It may suit China very well if Western artists pull out of cultural exchanges. How better to continue a regime, as it were behind closed doors, than if people protesting against human rights violations voluntarily slam the door behind them on their way out. I think that a boycott,although a very valid and heartfelt form of protest, will have very little influence, and in fact may produce the opposite effect to that which is desired. Maybe better to work to keep the doors open.A stance of non interaction,and stand off by two sides is a sort of vacuum where nothing is likely to evolve.I think the West overestimates its importance in terms of boycott. Good for Kapoor for making a protest,but I don't think that it is necessarily the best approach.

15 Jun 11
9:29 CET

GEORGE SHAW, SYUDNEY

It has been proved time and again that certain totalitarian governments are not interested in words, just actions. Therefore, I believe Kapoor is speaking in this government's language.

15 Jun 11
13:17 CET

RYAN, NEW YORK

kudos to the first major artist who has the courage to take a real stand. as for the chinese so-called artists of any stature (also the flavor of the month), they have remained mute. this also goes for the many western galleries who represent them, where the yuan (or cash) is king.

15 Jun 11
13:17 CET

ALIDE, BURLINGTON

There is no such thing as a dialogue with China. The Chinese will not be pressured by cultural exchange to behave in a democratic manner. The only way to make a point is to boycott them on all fronts, not just cultural. We need to stop our pitiable attempts to cater to them. The only way for us to understand China is to understand its history. If we don't do that we will continue to be that country's patsy.

14 Jun 11
22:29 CET

SUSIE PANESAR, BRISTOL

I'm unsure, but maybe one way in which to continue to exert pressure is to maintain a cultural exchange and dialogue with China.

14 Jun 11
19:40 CET

PATTY, BROOKLYN, NY

i don't understand museum's idea that "culture exchange promotes understanding and therefore will promote freedom of express in China" China understand the western countries very well, more than we know about them. I don't think the reason they're detaining and abusing its rights lawyers, activists, and artists is due to the lack of "cultural exchanges"

14 Jun 11
18:40 CET

LAURI LUCK, FORESTVILLE

Fantastic! Thank you for not only speaking out but backing your words with action. When artists of your renown speak you give voice to those of us whose voices are rarely heard. Thank you for your bravery.

14 Jun 11
17:38 CET

DIANE, NYC

Right on for him! I wish more artists and galleries would stand up and speak out! FREE AI WEI WEI NOW!

14 Jun 11
16:7 CET

PHYLLIS KWALWASSER, BROOKLYN

I praise Anish Kapoor for a taking a stand. Public pressure is the only way that China seems to listen.

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