Dazed Digital


Ai Weiwei in Shanghai

May 11, 2011

Shanghai street art references the important - and still detained - artist

  • Text by Satellite Voices

Guest feature by Jake Newby

A month after Ai Weiwei’s disappearance, a spate of mysterious street art paintings have been popping up on Shanghai’s streets with clear correlations to the artist. The most recent have seen a picture of a bloodied figure with the word ‘free’ and a sunflower seed appear near the busy area of Jingan Temple and a reworking of the artist’s famous piece, "Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn", on the central Wulumuqi Lu. Both works were painted over within 24 hours of their appearance and the artist behind the black stenciled works remains a mystery.

Ai has been missing since he was stopped at Beijing Airport on April 3. There has been little mention of Ai in the Chinese press since, except for a small article a week after his arrest saying that he had been detained due to ‘economic crimes’. The Chinese government has been carefully policing online forums and micro-blogging sites such as Sina Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter), with messages and pictures related to the artist harmonised in some cases within minutes of appearing. This new form of protest is doubtly unharmonious from the Chinese authorities’ point of view as street art is generally banned in Shanghai except for special designated zones such as near the Moganshan Lu art complex.

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