What Is Going on With Ai Weiwei? July Updates

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.

Ai Weiwei Associate Suffers Heart Attack During Interrogation

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.

Ai Weiwei to Pay $2 Million in Tax Penalties, Chinese Art Scene Moves On

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.

Questions Remain After Ai Weiwei’s 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?

Anish Kapoor Snubs China, Supports Ai Weiwei

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.

Should Museums Protest Ai Weiwei’s Arrest?

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.