AO News Summary – Shanghai: Ai Weiwei’s $1 Million Government Granted Artist Complex Torn Down by Chinese Government

January 14th, 2011

All photos via Duyanpili. All rights reserved.

Two years ago Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei was asked by Shanghai government officials to build a studio in a grape field outside the city. An entire artists’ complex, worth $1 million, it was meant to attract other important artists and culture to Shanghai. As Ai Weiwei was set to open the space this summer, officials claimed that it in fact did not follow land use regulations, ultimately demolishing the structure Tuesday. Ai is quite skeptical of such an excuse, suspecting that his political activism has much more to do with the situation.

More text and images after the jump…

An avid Tweeter and blogger, Ai reported the demolition live after flying to Shanghai from Beijing upon hearing the news from some neighbors. February 3rd—the Chinese New Year—was the scheduled date of destruction, but it was unexpectedly moved up, as it would happen ‘sooner or later’ anyway.  However, it should be noted that the studio would perhaps still be standing had Ai let it go as an agricultural museum, according to the BBC.

Converted from a rundown warehouse, plans for the new studio already included a month-long architecture discussion with graduate students invited from Oslo. A prolific, world renown artist, Ai played a role in the construction of the 2008 Olympic ‘Bird’s Nest’ in Beijing.

Though the artist has had enough hope in China to work on the Olympic stadium, he has many criticisms of the Chinese Communist Party. Ai wrote over 70 blog posts on Yang Jia, a government protester who killed 6 officers in 2008. The artist also documented Feng Zhenghu’s experience, stuck in the Tokyo airport for three months while the Shanghai officials refused to stamp the activist’s passport

When his studio was condemned this fall, nearly 800 people attended a going-away party. Ai sat home alone on house arrest while the attendees consumed river crab—for which the Mandarin word is a homonym of the government’s goal of ‘harmony.’

-S. Sveen

Related Links:

Ai Weiwei and the Art of Demolition [The New Yorker]
Unbowed, Unbroken [The Economist]
Duyanpili’s Photos [Flickr]
Chinese Authorities Raze an Artist’s Studio [NY Times]
Why Did Chinese Authorities Raze Artist’s Studio? [NPR]
Ai Weiwei’s Shanghai Studio Now Demolished [Hyperallergic]