A London gallery has canceled an exhibition of a Chinese rebel artist Ai Weiwei because of his social media post about the war between Israel and Hamas.
It became known the day before, November 14, that the Lisson Gallery is indefinitely suspending the exhibition of new works by Ai Weiwei, which was supposed to open on Wednesday, November 15.
The artist told The Art Newspaper that his exhibition was “effectively cancelled”, but called the decision “well-intentioned”. He expressed his belief that the organizers decided to cancel the exposition, “to avoid further arguments and for my own well-being“.
In his Twitter post that prompted the exhibition’s cancellation, Ai Weiwei wrote: “The sense of guilt for the persecution of the Jewish people is sometimes transferred to the Arab world for compensation. Financially, culturally, and media-wise, the Jewish community has a significant presence in the United States. Israel’s $3 billion annual aid package has been touted for decades as one of the most valuable investments the United States has ever made. This partnership is often described as a partnership of shared destiny“.
The artist later deleted the tweet.
A representative of Lisson Gallery said that the issue of holding the Ai Weiwei exhibition is “still under discussion”. The gallery also added that after the post appeared in the artist’s social networks, they had “long conversations” with him.
|Photo from Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at Lisson Gallery in 2019|
“We agreed together that now is not the best time to present his new works. There is no place for debate that can be characterized as anti-Semitic or Islamophobic at a time when all efforts must be directed towards ending the tragic suffering in the Israeli and Palestinian territories and in communities around the world“, says the gallery’s official statement.
Ai Weiwei said in a tweet, “tried to be objective and neutral, without moral judgments, accusations or evaluations of human actions“. At the same time, he noted that this situation raises the issue of freedom of speech: “For one who works in art, self-expression has never been about finding the right statement…We must not give up self-expression for lack of conclusion; otherwise we would give up art, creativity and creation“.
Who is Ai Weiwei?
Future artist and activist Ai Weiwei was born in Beijing in 1957. After his father, the poet Ai Qin, was exiled, he grew up in labor camps in northwestern China. Watching his father’s persecution by the state machine, Ai became a critic of the Chinese government and a defender of human rights.
In 2011, the artist was arrested at the Beijing airport and detained for 81 days on a fabricated case related to his political activities. Then he got the idea to write a memoir – the autobiography was published at the end of 2021. The Ukrainian publication entitled “1000 Years of Joy and Sorrow”, published by the ArtHuss publishing house, became one of the first translations.
In the same year, the Chinese dissident was recognized as the most influential artist in the world.
In 2015, Ai Weiwei left China. Currently lives in Lisbon, Portugal.
Ai has long supported the Palestinians. In particular, in 2016 he visited Gaza during the filming of his documentary “Human Flow” about the global refugee crisis.
The artist often provokes the public both with his works and online statements. In early 2022, Ai Weiwei sparked outrage among Internet users by posting an anti-vaccination video. It featured a group of men dancing on top of a hill. The video’s caption read: “Me and my friends are living offline after refusing the vaccine.”
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