Ai Weiwei

The Chinese Government Destroys Ai Weiwei's 'Zuoyou' Studio

"Free speech and free expression have simply never existed in China or in its artist communities."

|

Instagram

Yet again, the renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is facing the consequences of expressing himself in a country that does not embrace free expression.

It's been just seven years since the dissident artist was arrested and incarcerated in a secret location for 81 days. (The government suspected him and other activists of trying to start a "Jasmine Revolution.") Ai also had his passport confiscated and was forced to pay a steep fine of $2.4 million after authorities charged him with tax evasion.

Now Ai has posted several Instagram videos of his "Zuoyou" studio being destroyed without warning over the weekend. As he explained in one video, he had worked in this Beijing studio since 2006. Ai tells NPR that some of his art was damaged in the process, as he had not been given any time to prepare. The neighborhood where Ai's studio was located is scheduled for redevelopment, and Ai argues that the demolition was not simply an attempt to quiet an artist; it's a state-driven gentrification effort aimed at the migrant workers who live in his part of the city.

"Free speech and free expression have simply never existed in China or in its artist communities," he tells NPR. He also notes that in a Communist country, "Art is seen as either party propaganda or as Western spiritual pollution."

As Reason recounted in 2013, Ai has a long history of criticizing the Chinese government: "chastising the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a 'fake smile' to the world, detailing the deadly results of shoddy school construction after the Sichuan earthquake, or meticulously documenting the increasingly aggressive police measures used against him." That's a family tradition: The artist once told Reason that his poet father, the famed Ai Qing, was exiled and was "forbidden to write for 20 years." The Chinese government was "trying to reduce my voice or my possibility for creativity," he said in the same interview.

NEXT: Can It Be a Crime to "Intimidate" Police Officers by Threatening to Complain About Them?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Now Ai has posted several Instagram videos of his “Zuoyou” studio being destroyed without warning over the weekend.

    Alex Jones sympathizes.

  2. That’s what Ai gets for making HATE ART!

  3. Coming soon to Twitter/Facebook.

  4. Winnie the Pooh uber alles.

  5. Apparently the right thing to do would be for the US to begin dismantling artists’ studios to make the Chinese stop.

  6. Shut up and get back to work making our extruded plastic dongles, China. Crack down on your labor, artists, and political rivals as hard as you want, we need prices low!

    /The West

    1. Indeed! We must trade more with this peaceful, freedom loving, great nation!! Why could this possibly ever be a bad idea?!?

  7. This is Trump’s fault….because TARIFFS!

  8. The neighborhood where Ai’s studio was located is scheduled for redevelopment, and Ai argues that the demolition was not simply an attempt to quiet an artist; it’s a state-driven gentrification effort aimed at the migrant workers who live in his part of the city.

    Eminent domain, public purpose yadda yadda. So we’re all good with this then.

  9. It’s worth noting here that Ai Weiwei fell in disfavour in China when he smashed a 2000 year old Han dynasty urn and photographed the process as an ‘artwork’. This would be similar to a western artist smashing an urn from Rome or Greece dating from the time of Christ. This Chinese are understandably sensitive to destruction to their cultural artefacts as during the times of European invasions of China the invading troops destroyed or looted many of Chinese treasures. The worst example of this was perhaps the burning of the Summer palace which covered 800 acres and took 3 days to burn. Many art works which were taken from the palace are on display today in western museums. More recently, during the Cultural Revolution the Red Guards set about destroying the ‘4 olds’, one of which was old ‘culture’, and many ancient art works were destroyed or severely damaged. Disrespect for China’s cultural heritage is associated with some very dark periods in Chinese history.

    1. Of course this calls for the great, benevolent dictatorship of the CCP to jail him. Totally natural. It is what all the people want.

      1. My guess is that most of the Chinese people who are aware of the existence of Ai Weiwei would simply want him out of the country. And that is precisely what has been achieved.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.