Detained artist Ai headlines Beijing art show with blank wall

Wed Jun 1, 2011 10:33am EDT
 
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By Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - Organizers of an art show in the Chinese capital have left an empty space on a gallery wall for detained artist-activist Ai Weiwei in a rare gesture of open defiance of the authorities.

A small tag with Ai's name adorns a blank wall among 19 other artists' work at an annual photography show that opened Wednesday, almost two months after police seized Ai Weiwei at Beijing's airport, igniting an international outcry.

The organizers' gesture of support for China's most politically controversial artist is a rare public display from mainland China's artistic community, which has largely stayed silent about Ai's detention.

"We feel regret because his voice can't be heard," said Lin Bing, a photographer who helped organize the show at the gallery CCD300, in Beijing's Caochangdi art area.

"It has made us think about when an artist loses the possibility of expressing himself."

Shi Yong, the owner of the gallery, said the exhibition was normal and legal, but Lin said he received phone calls from the police bureau after the show opened asking him to come in for a discussion. Organizers could not be reached by phone later.

China's state media and foreign ministry have said Ai is being investigated for tax avoidance and related charges. His family have said they have not been formally told about such charges and reject them as smears intended to silence him.

Ai had supported the Incidental Art Festival -- now in its third year -- and exhibited art at past shows, said Lin. If it were not for the "special situation," he said, his work would have been included again.   Continued...

 
<p>Fei Xiaosheng, an organizer of the Third Incidental Art Festival gestures in front of the wall left blank in support of detained artist-activist Ai Weiwei, during the opening ceremony in Beijing June 1, 2011. Organisers of an art show in the Chinese capital have left an empty space on a gallery wall for detained artist-activist Ai Weiwei in a rare gesture of open defiance over the case. The exhibition comes at an especially sensitive time, as China braces for Saturday's 22nd anniversary of the government's deadly mobilization of the military to clear pro-democracy protests focused on Tiananmen Square in 1989. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic</p>