LACMA, other museums demand release of Ai Weiwei in petition
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The detention of artist Ai Weiwei by Chinese officials this week has prompted condemnation from the art community as well as from politicians around the world. Ai was seized by police while attempting to travel from Beijing to Hong Kong. Though the official word from China was that the artist is being investigated for ‘economic crimes,’ many believe that the latest episode is a result of the artist’s outspoken criticism of the Communist Party over the years.
Several prominent museums and cultural organizations around the world have signed an online petition demanding the release of the artist. Started by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the petition has been signed by Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Glenn Lowry, the director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art; Richard Armstrong, the director of the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation; and more.
‘We members of the international arts community express our concern for Ai’s freedom and disappointment in China’s reluctance to live up to its promise to nurture creativity and independent thought,’ the petition reads.
Ai has been openly critical of the Chinese government’s handling of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. He has used social media tools like Twitter to communicate with people outside China. Earlier this year, demolition workers tore down the artist’s Shanghai studio in what is believed to be retaliation for his activism.
Influenced by Andy Warhol, Ai has created art that comments on notions of authenticity and consumer culture. He collaborated with the architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron on the creation of the Olympic Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.
-- David Ng
Photos, from top: Ai Weiwei in 2006 (credit: Ya Xing / EPA); Ai in his Beijing studio (credit: Alexander F. Yuan / Associated Press).