We last posted on Ai Weiwei with news of his associate’s heart attack. Since his release, news of the artist has significantly slowed but he’s not out of the woods yet. Ai faces charges of mass tax evasion, and the normally vocal artist has remained disturbingly quiet Here’s an update on what’s been going on since our last post.
The New York Times reports that the lawyer representing Ai Weiwei’s studio is fighting the $2 million USD fines that Ai’s studio faces for charges of “tax evasion.” Liu Zhenggang and Hu Mingfen have technically been released, as has reporter Wen Tao, but none of them have yet been seen in person. Statements by Chinese authorities say that Liu suffered a heart attack while under interrogation and was transported to a hospital.
According to Ai Weiwei’s lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, Ai’s FAKE studio has been accused (and seemingly convicted) of evading over 5 million RMB ($770,000 USD) and is to pay 7 million RMB ($1 million USD) in fines, together totaling around $2 million USD. Ai’s mother Gao Ying speaks on her son’s arrest, release and current condition. In the meantime, the Chinese art scene continues business as usual, with the exception of some ripples — a well-known artist-run cafe has been closed by the authorities.
Ai Weiwei assistant Duyan Pili broke the news that Ai’s FAKE studio architect Liu Zhenggang and accountant Hu Mingfen have also been released from custody following the artist’s release two days ago. Ai’s cousin and driver Zhang Jinsong was released yesterday. Reporter Wen Tao is still detained, but hopes run high for his release.
Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been released, as has his cousin Zhang Jinsong, but that doesn’t mean the story is over. Ai’s legal case is still open, China is still detaining and jailing dissidents and the Ai’s freedom may just be political image clean-up for the government. What does the release actually mean?
Around 5 hours ago, the news broke that Ai Weiwei’s cousin and driver Zhang Jingson was to be released on bail, as the artist was yesterday. Zhang is now home and has lost 19 kg; Ai associate Duyan Pili notes that he’ll have to lose his nickname of “Little Fatty.”
Beijing government news outlet Xinhua has just announced that detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been released on bail, having confessed to his tax crimes and stated his willingness to pay the taxes he is said to have evaded. “A chronic disease” that the artist suffers from was also a factor in his release.
Today in putting your money where your mouth is: famed British artist Anish Kapoor has rejected an offer to show his work at the National Museum of China in Beijing in protest of Ai Weiwei’s ongoing arrest and detention. This, plus Chinese artists arrested for mounting a protest exhibition and the US State Department speaking out against Chinese cyber attacks on the Guggenheim’s Change.org Ai petition.
Dan Keegan, director of the Milwaukee Art Museum, has recently been shoving his foot farther and farther into his mouth with statements about museums’ role in politics. Namely, he thinks that museums should be apolitical, and he has stated that his museum’s decision to collaborate with Chinese museums and show Chinese do not have any relationship to China’s arrest and detainment of artist Ai Weiwei.
According to Keegan, protesting China’s detaining of Ai Weiwei, an internationally regarded artist, is not only ineffective, but wrong. “We don’t do protests … I would say very emphatically that we should not protest ever,” the director said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Mary Louise Schumacher. In an international situation such as Ai’s arrest, can museums avoid being political? Can they avoid caring about the well-being of the artists they support and show? I would argue that art institutions have to be political, and the protesting, far from being wrong, is exactly what museums should be doing.
Tyler Green has this incredible story — China is demanding the return of two marble chair sculptures by Ai Weiwei recently bought by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego due to a claimed export license problem. Is China trying to censor Ai’s work abroad?
Earlier this morning, we posted a video of Cuban artist Geandy (pronounced jee-ahndy) Pavon projecting Ai Weiwei’s portrait onto the street side of the New York City Chinese Consulate, a guerrilla protest for the detained artist. In this exclusive Q+A, Pavon explains how he did it, what the reaction has been to his work and his future plans.
On this past Friday May 20, Cuban artist Geandy Pavon did a guerrilla projection protest for Ai Weiwei. In this work, called “Nemesis Ai Weiwei: The Elusiveness of Being”, Pavon projected Ai’s face onto the blank street-side facade of the New York City Chinese Consulate. Click through for video documentation of the project.