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China artist cancels ‘politically sensitive’ show

Posted by Author on February 14, 2011

BEIJING — Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said Monday he cancelled his first large solo exhibition in mainland China after organisers told the outspoken government critic the timing was too politically sensitive.

Ai, one of China’s most famous artists and a bold political activist, told AFP his show was due to start in March at UCCA, a gallery founded by Belgian collector Guy Ullens in a Beijing art district.

“The timing is sensitive and politically they feel it is not suitable at the moment,” said the 53-year-old.
He said organisers wanted to postpone the show but he decided to cancel it instead.

A frequent critic of China’s Communist Party leaders, Ai has run into problems with authorities, which he says is linked to his activism.

His newly built Shanghai studio was demolished last month in apparent retaliation for his criticism of city policies, and he was blocked from leaving China in December ahead of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo.

The prize was awarded to jailed Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo.

Ai was also briefly placed under house arrest in November to prevent him attending a public event at his Shanghai studio.

Vivienne Li, UCCA communications director, told AFP the gallery did not want to upset authorities by exhibiting a “sensitive” artist like Ai.

Previously, Ai investigated school collapses in the massive 2008 quake in the southwestern province of Sichuan, which many believe were triggered by shoddy construction work.

At the 2009 trial in Sichuan of activist Tan Zuoren, who also probed the collapses and was later handed a five-year jail term, Ai said he was detained and beaten by police who blocked him from testifying on Tan’s behalf.


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