Berlin unveils new Ai Weiwei exhibition, but artist can't attend

Thu Apr 3, 2014 6:13am EDT
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By Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's biggest solo show, featuring a reproduction of the white cell where Chinese authorities held him for 81 days, was unveiled on Wednesday in Berlin without Ai in attendance because the government still holds his passport.

"Ai Weiwei - Evidence", which sprawls across 18 rooms at the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum, is a deeply political exhibition of the artist's conceptual art. It opens on Thursday, exactly three years after he was arrested and held in detention.

A white bedroom with foam-covered walls and surveillance cameras reproduces his prison cell.

An outspoken critic of the Chinese government's record on free speech and human rights, Ai did not attend the show's news conference as the government retained his passport after his release.

"I may have a chance to come to the show, I hope this can be possible, but I don't know," the bearded artist said via video message.

China's Foreign Ministry said Ai was being investigated by law enforcement authorities.

"The relevant person, because he is suspected of economic crimes, is being investigated in accordance with the law," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. "No Chinese citizen is above the law."

Ai's detention prompted an international outcry and Germany was among those countries that have asked for his release.   Continued...

People walk beside an advertising poster for the exhibition 'Evidence' by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at the Martin-Gropius Bau in Berlin, April 2, 2014. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch