China's Ai Weiwei gets "absent" exhibition in Taiwan

Fri Oct 28, 2011 10:12am EDT
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TAIPEI (Reuters) - A museum in Taiwan will host dissident artist Ai Weiwei's first major exhibition in the overseas Chinese world from Saturday in a move that could upset Beijing.

Ai, famed for his work on the "Bird's Nest" Olympic Stadium in Beijing and whose 81-day detention this year caused an international outcry, remains under close watch in China. He was released in late June after he was taken from the Beijing airport and held in two secret locations.

Aptly titled "Absent" due to China's ban on Ai traveling, the three-month exhibit at Taipei's Fine Arts Museum will have 21 works on show, including a photograph of a person's arm making an obscene gesture in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

"The title 'Absent' is, I think, an interesting reflection on this exhibition, on Taiwan, on his personal situation, his art and his contribution to the field," said Chang Fang-wei, acting director of the museum's exhibition department.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war with the Communists in 1949, and China has never renounced the use of force to reunify the two.

But while China has seen little political liberalization in the last few decades, Taiwan has become proudly democratic, thumbing its nose at many of the restrictions mainland Chinese take for granted, such as pervasive censorship.

Also on show is a surveillance camera carved by Ai out of marble.

Ai told Reuters he was happy to have a chance to exhibit in Taiwan, even if he could not be there.

"This is the first time I'm having an exhibition of my art works in the wider Chinese world. I'm really happy that it can be exhibited in Taiwan, because recently it has not possible to have an exhibition in my own place of residence," he said by telephone.   Continued...

<p>A woman looks at an art installation named "Forever Bicycles" by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei during a media preview of the "Ai Weiwei Absent" exhibition in Taipei October 28, 2011. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang</p>