World-famous and beloved Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been “disappeared” by China’s state security forces. Every trace of Ai’s life and art has been erased from the Chinese internet, and his only hope may be a global outcry for his release.
Fearful of the pro-democracy protests sweeping the world, the government has cracked down on hundreds of free-thinking Chinese artists, intellectuals, students and citizens. But across the world, artists and art-lovers have begun to speak out in solidarity with Ai.
Chinese elites are major buyers of contemporary art, and are now planning a huge art fair in Beijing. If international galleries and artists stay away from China until Ai is freed, they’ll send shockwaves through the regime. Let’s build a massive global wave of support for top gallerists and artists to stop exhibiting in China until Ai Weiwei is released. We’ll deliver it at the upcoming Venice Biennale exhibition:
Dozens of galleries and artists from over 15 countries are now gearing up for the Beijing International Art Expo and other shows. We’ll present our petition to all the prominent galleries and artists, and log their responses on our website, mobilizing the art world to take a strong stand on behalf of Ai and all the free-thinking citizens who have been jailed.
China sometimes seems immune to international pressure, but art-activism could work. When sports stars stayed away from South Africa they got the attention of the brutal apartheid regime, hastening Nelson Mandela’s release. Together with international artists and dealers we may now be able to achieve the same effect.
Ai Weiwei’s crime has been to speak out against corruption and injustice in China. He resigned on principle from the team designing the ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic stadium, criticized corruption behind poorly built schools that killed children in the Sichuan earthquake, and expressed hope the democratic revolutions in the Middle East might lead to change in China. Now noone knows where he is being held or why. Let’s call on artists and galleries to come together to free Ai Wei Wei:
Ai Wei Wei’s parents spent 16 years in a prison labour camp for their principles. At that time China was isolated from the world, but now times have changed. Our voices count — let’s use them now for Ai and China’s free-thinking artists, and the new China they’re striving to create.
Alex, Ricken, Maria Paz, Morgan and the whole Avaaz team
BBC — Chinese Artist Held for Economic Crimes
NYTimes — China Takes Dissident Artist Into Custody
The Guardian — Cultural Revolutionary
CNN — A Dangerous mix of art and politics
The Atlantic — The Art of Bubbles: How Sotheby’s Predicts the World Economy