Ai Weiwei seems to be popping up on a weekly basis since he unveiled his latest work “Sunflower Seeds” at Tate Modern. But I spotted in the news today that he was held under house arrest in Beijing over the weekend to prevent him staging a protest at the demolition of his new studio in Shanghai.
Weiwei, who helped design the Bird’s Nest olympic stadium in Beijing, recently finished building his Shanghai studio, which apparently cost around £670,000. But as soon as it was completed, he was ordered to demolish it by the chinese authotities.
He responded by arranging a party to celebrate the demolition. He intended serving 10,000 river crabs, the chinese name for which sounds like a popular political euphemism, “Harmonise,” which basically means censorship. Weiwei claims that he was placed under house arrest because the chinese goverment feared what might happen if the protest was allowed to go ahead.
You can read the BBC report here: Chinese artist Ai Weiwei says he is under house arrest
This isn’t the first time that Ai Weiwei has found himself at odds with the Chinese authorities – in 2009 he claims to have been beaten by police for trying to support protester Tan Zuoren. He has also had blog and twitter accounts shut down.
It’s also interesting that all of this has happened at David Cameron heads to China…
I’ve talked before on this blog about art as communication and its importance in a free society. Surely Ai Weiwei is a case in point? Maybe we don’t value art enough because we don’t value freedom enough?