Chinese artist `under house arrest` in Beijing

Last Updated: Saturday, November 6, 2010 - 12:40

Beijing: Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said on Friday that police have put him under house arrest in Beijing to stop him attending a party at his new Shanghai studio, which officials have earmarked for demolition.

Ai had planned a feast for supporters featuring 10,000 crabs -- an autumn delicacy -- at the studio on Sunday as an ironic celebration of a decision by authorities to demolish the studio, after they had persuaded him to build it.

Ai said state security officials in Beijing told him he would not be able to leave his home until after midnight on Sunday.

"Ai Weiwei shall be put under house arrest immediately until 2400 on the 7th and must not leave his residence," the artist wrote on Twitter, citing the order.

Ai`s work is currently being showcased at a giant installation at London`s Tate Modern gallery, where he has filled the main hall with millions of porcelain sunflower seeds.

His perhaps best-known work is his collaboration with Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, on the National Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, known as the "Bird`s Nest", which he has since renounced as a fake "smile".

The artist had planned a banquet on Sunday including Chinese wine and 10,000 crabs -- the word "river crab" in Chinese sounds like "harmonise", a euphemism for government censorship.

"Please accept my deepest apologies," he wrote to his supporters via Twitter.

When one supporter asked if the event would go ahead -- adding he was already on a train to Shanghai -- Ai responded: "Can the train turn around?"

A representative for the artist confirmed that Sunday`s event had been cancelled.

Officials told the Global Times, a Communist Party-published newspaper, that Ai had been issued a demolition notice on October 19 because the building had not been approved through the proper procedures.

Ai told the newspaper that a district head in Shanghai, Sun Jiwei, had invited him to build a studio to help launch a new complex for artists two years ago and he signed a 30-year lease in 2008.

The artist said district officials had offered to compensate him for the 2,000-square-metre (21,000-square-foot) studio, which cost USD 1 million and was completed in March but has yet to open.

Ai had cranial surgery last year for injuries sustained during an incident with police in southwestern Sichuan province, where he was investigating the collapse of schoolhouses in the May 2008 earthquake that left more than 87,000 people dead or missing.

Bureau Report



First Published: Saturday, November 6, 2010 - 12:40

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