Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego acquires work by Ai Weiwei, plans 24-hour protest


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The work of Ai Weiwei has become a hot commodity ever since the artist was imprisoned by Chinese officials in early April. While China’s government hasn’t given an official reason for Ai’s detainment, many believe that the artist is being held as retaliation against his activism in the realms of human rights and free speech.

On Friday, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego announced that it has purchased two pieces from Ai’s series titled ‘Marble Chair.’ The museum said that the artist carved the yoke-back chairs out of single blocks of marble. Empty chairs are a recurring motif in Ai’s work, and have taken on added resonance since his disappearance.


The museum said it will hold a silent protest in support of Ai on Thursday at its downtown location. A spokeswoman said that the 24-hour protest will start 11 a.m. on Thursday and continue through 11 a.m. the next day. Volunteer participants will occupy two traditionally styled Chinese chairs for one-hour periods.

In addition to the works by Ai, which are on display in an exhibition titled ‘Prospect 2011,’ the museum said it has acquired works by Sam Gilliam and Helen Pashgian. The museum said the purchases were made by the International Collectors and Contemporary Collectors groups.

Last month, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced that it is acquiring Ai’s ‘Untitled (Divine Proportion),’ a 2006 spherical sculpture made of wood.

An exhibition of Ai’s work recently opened at a Berlin gallery, where artists have gathered to protest the artist’s disappearance. Ai’s touring public installation, ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads,’ opened in New York this month, near Central Park in midtown Manhattan. The installation is expected to come to LACMA in 2012.


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-- David Ng

Photo (bottom): Ai in his Beijing studio. Credit: Alexander F. Yuan / Associated Press