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Ai Weiwei
via @aiww

Ai Weiwei says show removed his art for ‘political reasons’

The Chinese artist’s work has been pulled from China’s Yinchuan Biennale

Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist whose provoking work has challenged the refugee crisis and the treatment of political dissidents, has claimed that his work was removed from China’s Yinchuan Biennale for political reasons.

The exhibition, set to open at the Museum of Contemporary Art Yinchuan in two weeks, includes other artists such as Anish Kapoor and Santiago Sierra.

In a series of tweets, the artist said: “A vague letter from Xie Suzhen, art director of MOCA Yinchuan confirmed that my participation in the Yinchuan Biennale is now cancelled.”

“According to the letter, the decision is made by higher officials, due to my political status. This show is a part of “One Belt, One Road”.

In a more detailed statement on Instagram, Ai Weiwei said: “I have just learnt that my artwork has been excluded due to my ‘political sensitivity’. Censorships in communist regions have been present since the existence of the power. Yet it still comes as a surprise to me for an ‘international art biennale’, with over a hundred international artists and a foreign curator participating, to remove a single artist for the reason of defending human rights and freedom of speech.

This shows what we face is a world which is divided and segregated by ideology, and art is used merely as a decoration for political agendas in certain societies. China is trying to develop into a modern society without freedom of speech, but without political arguments involving higher aesthetic morals and philosophies, art is only served as a puppet of fake cultural efforts.

Therefore I am happy not to be a part of that effort as a political decoration. I believe the real effort we should make, is in defending freedom of speech for our humanism. Only by doing so, art is worth making.” 

Recently, the artist announced that he was creating another project focused on the refugee crisis, titled #SafePassage. The exhibition explores his own issues with his homeland, as well as the experiences of refugees fleeing to Europe. His past work includes the controversial reconstruction of the drowned Syrian child Alan Kurdi, and his lifejacket installation at a Berlin concert hall. He’s also working on a film that has used over 600 hours of footage from camps in Greece and Macedonia.