Ai WeiWei Newswire: Chinese Demand Return of Ai’s Art | Museums Continue to Work With China Despite Human Rights Violations

by Paddy Johnson on May 26, 2011 · 4 comments Newswire

Ai Wei Wei chairs

What’s on the Ai WeiWei newswire?

Increased international tensions. Tyler Green reports that China is asking for the return of two Ai WeiWei marble chairs recently purchased by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. The problem, according to MCASD has to do with an export license that was handled according to standard practice.

“We worked with the customs broker that handles most of our international shipping on this,” MCASD deputy director and chief financial officer Charles E. Castle said. “They have an office in China and they worked with Ai's shipper to get the sculptures to us. The shippers made the decision that what made most sense was to export them with a 'temporary with right to purchase' export license on the theory that the works were going to be exhibited at the museum — which they were — and that they would then be shown to the museum's collection committee for approval, which they were.”

Anyway, under the museum’s contract, the receiving party has a six-month option to make a purchase decision and to then pay the duty. The museum told the customs officer they wanted to exercise their option, and the response — either from the shipping company or Chinese customs officials was that no such option would be honored. The museum has through September to return the work.

Meanwhile, picking up on a thread started around the web/blogosphere last week, the Art Newspaper reports that most museums with links to China intend to continue with shows and loans despite their human rights violations. This isn’t too much of a surprise  — museums don’t want to lose resources invested in future shows — but it does make a lot of these museum organized protests and letters seem like lip service. For protests to mean anything, people have to be willing to sacrifice for the cause. This can come in the form of donation of time, but at some point it means money too. I think we need to make an Ai WeiWei benefit fund. This can be used to support museums that need to find new exhibitions and art work to replace that from China.



Ian Pawelec May 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I recently saw Ai Wiewie’s Zodiac Heads and felt I was very luck to be able to view such work, given his current situation. Though a true artist can never be caged as long as people can view their work. 

James May 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Do be fair, plenty of museums are still dealing with the United States government, despite human rights violations and war crimes.

Cris Ronk May 26, 2011 at 8:14 pm

let’s all make government approved art.

Mao Ze Wrong June 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm

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It’s 22 years since tanks rolled in Tiananmen Square, and
two months since we’ve seen Ai Weiwei. Will China ever change?


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