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Ai Weiwei Haus der Kunst museum protest
Via Instagram @aiww

Ai Weiwei stages guerrilla protest in solidarity with Munich museum staff

The artist denies he was ejected from the Haus der Kunst during his demonstration in support of workers’ rights

This weekend (September 14), artist and activist Ai Weiwei staged a protest at Munich’s Haus der Kunst museum in solidarity with staff members who are currently facing layoffs.

Ai stood at the gallery’s entrance, appearing to check tickets and welcome visitors. The artist later posted a photo to his Instagram, showing him in discussion with the museum’s director Bernhard Spies.

The 62-year-old – who had a solo show at Haus der Kunst in 2009 – disputed claims that he was thrown out of the museum, writing on Twitter: “The fact is no one ever threw me out. We left at the end of the protest.” The artist goes on to suggest that Spies promised no workers would be laid off, and added a witty nota bene: “I have never been thrown out by anyone and I’m sure there will be a time to come.” 

Ai was supporting employees campaigning to keep their jobs in the face of internal restructuring due to ongoing financial struggles. The institution previously announced that 48 staff members – two thirds of its part-time workers – might be laid off, including front-of-house employees, cashiers, and security guards. Some of those at risk have worked at the museum for two decades.

“The management is sticking to its promise to make the restructuring process as socially acceptable as possible,” Haus der Kunst said in a statement after the protest, “while maintaining as many jobs as possible and without any loss of income.”

Ai has lived in self-imposed exile in Berlin since 2015, but recently told a local newspaper that he planned to leave the city. “Germany is not an open society,” he said. “It is a society that wants to be open, but above all it protects itself. German culture is so strong that it doesn’t really accept other ideas and arguments.”

Despite his urge to leave, the artist said he has enjoyed living in Berlin “very much”, and obviously couldn’t sidestep the chance to help German workers.