Detail of Ai Weiwei’s “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn” (1995) (image via

A number of news sources are reporting that Chinese art great Ai Weiwei is under house arrest in his north Beijing home. According to the Daily Telegraph:

“I am under house arrest,” Mr Ai told The Daily Telegraph by telephone. “They asked me not to go and to tell everyone the party was off, but I said I couldn’t do that and they’d have to stop me. So now they talked their superiors and came back to say I’m officially under house arrest.”

The party Ai Weiwei was planning this Sunday, which we tweeted about yesterday, appears to have angered Chinese authorities. The event was in response to news that Ai’s studio was slated to be demolished by Chinese authorities who perpetually perturbed by the artist.

According to New York Times:

Mr. Ai had planned to fly to Shanghai on Friday to prepare a Sunday goodbye party at the studio, to be attended by eight rock bands and up to a thousand supporters from around China. But on Thursday night, he said, Beijing police officers came to his home and asked him not to make the trip.

This isn’t the first time Ai has gotten into hot water with the Chinese authorities. The artist has been testing the limits of the autocratic government with his art shows and actions for years.

In 2008, he blogged about Yang Jia, who murdered six Shanghai policemen after being arrested and beaten for riding an unlicensed bicycle, which became a national story.

Last year, he was beaten by police in Sichuan Province, where he had gone to testify for a fellow activist, and the attack required him to get surgery to drain blood from his brain.

A few month later, he staged an exhibition in Munich that condemned the government’s handling of children’s deaths in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

And this year, he created a documentary on Feng Zhengu, an activist who spent months in Tokyo’s Narita Airport after Shanghai officials denied him entry to the country.

You may be interested to know that at the party he was planning, Ai planned to serve river crabs, which is a pun on the Mandarin word hexie, which means both river crab and harmonious. According to the Times, “Among critics of China’s censorship regime, hexie has become a buzzword for opposition to the government’s call to create a harmonious society, free from dissent.”

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.