During Berlin Gallery Weekend Ai Weiwei was expected to open his new studio here in Germany. He was looking for a new space in Berlin because his Shanghai studio last year had been destroyed by demolition workers overnight. Mr. Weiwei also repeatedly mentioned worries about his security situation in China.
In fact, Ai Weiwei has not been seen in public since 3 rd April, when he was prevented by police from boarding a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong. His detention was confirmed four days later, when China’s Xinuha news service said briefly that ‘he was being investigated for economic crimes’. His family has no knowledge about the place, where he is kept or about any specific indictment. All of their questions so far remained unanswered.
At the same time, his Beijing studio was raided and a number of his employees, like his driver Liu and his studio assistant Wen Tao, have been arrested too. One of his lawyers, Mr. Liu Xiaoyuan, also disappeared.
Hardly anyone believes, that these ‘economic crimes’ are the real reason for the arrest of the world-renowned artist and his staff. Mr. Weiwei repeatedly acted as a very provocative and critical voice for Chinese society: In 2009, when he investigated why so many school kids died in the Sichuan earth quake, he was beaten up by local police. Later, his blog was shut down.
However, last weekend there were up to 2,000 protesters for the release of Ai Weiwei alone in Hong Kong. Most of the contemporary art galleries support the protests and hung an Ai Weiwei-missing-poster in their windows.
Was it unthoughtfulness or intention to arrest a world renowned Chinese dissident artist two days after the opening of the show ‘The Art of the Enlightenment’?
The show is about the 18th century art of Europe’s movement of reason, tolerance and science. It takes place in the National Museum of China on Tiananmen Square and was co-produced by German museums.
Ai Weiwei told the German newspaper Die Welt at the opening, ‘I am amused, because on one hand the show is intended to show how the Europeans managed to start an enormous change of values 300 years ago. On the other hand, China, until now, did not dare to talk about enlightenment at all. You may show only paintings, but you may not debate the issue. Isn’t this full of humor?’
Was it an accident or a statement to arrest a famous artist even during his show at Tate Modern in London?
I must admit, I don’t understand much about Chinese mentalities with its urge for face keeping (fake) harmony. I know it is naive, but I think the Chinese leaders should reconsider the value of criticism for their society. Mr. Weiwei is not only a brilliant International contemporary artist. I think his voice is also a great contribution for the development of Chinese society.
Freedom for Ai Weiwei!
This may be a first step - but not a solution!