Art world denounces Ai Weiwei’s disappearance

Museums, fellow artists and his gallery rally to show support for the artist, who is in police custody

Ai Weiwei outside his demolished Shanghai art studio in January

NEW YORK. The international art world has rallied in support of artist Ai Weiwei, who was arrested by Chinese authorities this weekend at Beijing's airport as he was about to board a plane to Hong Kong. The current location of the 53-year-old artist, who regularly criticises the Chinese government, is still unknown.

The Gwangju Biennale Foundation released a statement yesterday condemning the Chinese government, reports Korea's JoongAng Daily. Ai is co-director of the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale. “We regret that China has arrested the co-director of the international design exhibition Gwangju Design Biennale without clear reason. Beijing should make public Ai’s whereabouts and guarantee his safety,” the foundation said, adding that the design biennial is still planned to be held in September as scheduled.

The Lisson Gallery, which represents Ai Weiwei, also released a statement concerning the artist's arrest, saying: “We are extremely alarmed by the detention of Ai Weiwei and his colleagues and are greatly concerned for his safety. Ai Weiwei is one of the leading cultural figures of his generation and consistently displays great courage in placing himself at risk to affect social change through his art. Lisson Gallery has a long history of working with political artists and we strongly condemn any form of artistic suppression. We continue to support Ai Weiwei and are fully committed to staging his first solo exhibition at the gallery, opening 13 May 2011.”

The artist’s first major public outdoor sculpture installation in London, Circle of Animals, is also set to open at Somerset House on 12 May. In response to Ai’s disappearance, director Gwyn Miles said: “Like everyone who admires and respects the work of Ai Weiwei we are dismayed and aggrieved by the news that Ai Weiwei has been detained by Chinese authorities. The artist’s whereabouts are still unknown. We deplore these actions that threaten Ai Weiwei’s freedom and right to speak freely. We hope he is unharmed and will be released immediately.” Miles added that the works for the installation have already been shipped to the UK, and the exhibition will open as planned.

Meanwhile, Tate, which has previously chosen not to comment on Ai Weiwei’s outspoken political opinions or legal activities, released a statement saying it was “dismayed by developments that again threaten Weiwei's right to speak freely as an artist and hope that he will be released immediately”. The artist’s Sunflower Seeds installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall remains on view until 2 May.

Bonnie Rosenberg

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28 Apr 11
15:1 CET


As an African/American I have recently experienced the Influx of the chinese in many part of Africa especially Nigeria and as a remarkable coincidence, a prominent and popular Nigeria artist and a colleague bears the name Wewe (Tola Wewe) which always remind me of Ai Weiwei. Chinese government should please see this man as a world citizen. Artists belong to the whole wide world , far beyond the citizenry of their immediate community. Artists have made known to the whole world the image of China way back from the ancient Tzang to date, The popular Vases and "Yellow Mountain" . I hereby humbly plead for the immediate release of Weiwei!

9 Apr 11
7:45 CET


The Chinese authorities are clearly making a very serious mistake which will tarnish their image for a very long time. The vague accusation of economic crime they seem to want to bring against the well-known artist will not convince anyone. It so happens that Ai Weiwei is the only Chinese artist I have personally met and I am very shocked that the Beijing authorities do not seem to care at all about world opinion. They should immediately and unconditionally release Ai Weiwei

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