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Chinese Officials Remove Ai Weiwei Work from Exhibition

by Jillian Steinhauer on April 30, 2014

Ai Weiwei Instagrammed this photo of two boxes containing his sunflower seeds, meant to go on view at the Power Station of Art but censored at the last minute. (screenshot via Instagram)

Ai Weiwei Instagrammed this photo of two boxes containing his sunflower seeds, meant to go on view at the Power Station of Art but censored at the last minute. (screenshot via Instagram)

Ai Weiwei’s art star celebrity status sometimes eclipses the political realities of his life, but the Chinese government is always quick with a reminder. The latest controversy: local cultural officials in Shanghai have scrubbed and censored Ai’s name and work from an exhibition about the history of contemporary Chinese art, the New York Times reported. The show, called 15 Years Chinese Contemporary Art Award, displays the work of 19 artists and six critics who’ve won that award (CCCA) since Swiss media executive and Chinese-art collector Uli Sigg created it in 1998. Ai won the CCCA for lifetime achievement in 2008 and, according to the Times, served on the jury for the awards the first three times they were given out. Two of his signature works — a wooden stool and a pile of porcelain sunflower seeds — were to be included in the show, until a few days before last Saturday’s opening, when Shanghai officials told Sigg they couldn’t be shown. The exhibition is taking place at the Power Station of Art, China’s first government-run contemporary art museum. Ai’s name is still listed on the webpage for the show, but has apparently been removed from the on-site wall text that lists CCCA winners and jury members.

The Times also points out the artist’s recent clash with Jason Wishnow, the director of a short sci-fi film that’s been fundraising on Kickstarter. “The Sand Storm” marks Ai’s acting debut, and its Kickstarter page was heavily pegged to his presence. But he told the Times, “I think they should not use my name to raise money and explain to the public that I’m not a main character.” The Kickstarter for the project had already reached its goal when we spoke with Wishnow earlier this month, but the page is now offline, with a message that says the film “is the subject of an intellectual property dispute and is currently unavailable.” Hyperallergic reached out to Wishnow but hasn’t received a reply.

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