Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chinese activist-artist's studio razed

January 13, 2011China's Ai Weiwei watched his newly built Shanghai art studio be torn down this week — a demolition the noted Chinese artist says is tied to his vocal political activism. Work crews arrived early Tuesday to demolish the studio. Ai, who was in Beijing, flew down to Shanghai as soon as he was alerted. Both the structure and a neighbouring studio he designed for a friend were brought down by 9 p.m. local time that day. Ai began building the studio in a suburban district in Malu township a few years ago, one of several artists invited to do so by government officials hoping to revive the district as a cultural hub. The officials vowed to procure the necessary paperwork for the studio, which cost about $1 million US, Ai said. But last summer, the Beijing-based artist received notice his Shanghai site was to be destroyed because he had built it without proper permits. In November, Ai planned a party at the studio to "celebrate" its imminent demise. Though he was placed under house arrest in Beijing and was unable to attend, hundreds of friends and fans arrived to support him. Ai has gained international renown for various projects in recent years, including his collaboration on the acclaimed "Bird's Nest" stadium built for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the popular Sunflower Seeds art installation at London's Tate Modern in 2010. However, his activism against Chinese corruption and human rights violations has earned censure from the government. His political work has included making a film about a Chinese activist forced to remain in Tokyo's airport when denied re-entry into Shanghai and an online series exploring the death toll from the Sichuan earthquake, which killed thousands of schoolchildren. Police in plain clothes followed the artist and activist, the blog detailing his Sichuan investigation was shut down, and he suffered a beating just before he was due to testify on behalf of another activist researching the earthquake. - CNN

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