Ai Weiwei on why Ullens are quitting Beijing centre – TimeOut interview


In February, ARTINFO reported that Beijing’s Ullens Centre will eventually become an all-Chinese run enterprise as Baron Guy Ullens and wife Myriam Ullens withdraw from managing the organisation. In a recent TimeOut interview, Chinese artist and social activitist Ai Weiwei shares his perspective on why this may be happening.

Click here to read the above mentioned ARTINFO article that peers behind the upcoming Sotheby’s Ullens Collection auction.

A chandelier designed by Ai Weiwei hangs at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Image from

When TimeOut Hong Kong interviewer Jake Hamilton asked Ai Weiwei about the cancellation of his Ullens Centre retrospective, the artist replied:

We prepared that show for a year and a half. All the work was ready. I think from what [the Ullens Centre] told me, it was something like, ‘Because Shanghai destroyed your studio there is now so much discussion [about you] and it makes us nervous.’ They thought the exhibition would bring them some sad effect. But they clearly did not tell me whether this was self-censorship or an order from higher up. … They would never tell me [who gave them the order]. So I can only guess it is either of these two reasons. It is very possible that an order came from a higher level, just like it did with my studio in Shanghai.

Controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on the cover of 'TimeOut Hong Kong'. Image from

Hamilton continued to probe: “Do you think Mr. Ullens has also become frustrated with the authorities?” Ai Weiwei responded with,

Yes, very much so, because he is working with the authorities trying to set up different deals with various groups who have had a very strong state profile for years. I think it’s very possible they just don’t want anything around that will give people an excuse. But I also think they are worrying too much, because all of the work had been censored anyway. They told me what cannot be shown, such as anything relating to the Sichuan earthquake, which I showed in Munich. I also agreed. … If I do a show there then I have to follow the law. But it turned out that even this wasn’t going to work. So my first show in China is still delayed by unknown forces.

Click here to read the TimeOut Hong Kong interview with Chinese artist and social activist Ai Weiwei in its entirety.

The Ullens Collection – The Nascence of Avant-Garde China auction is expected to yield US$12.7 to 16.7 million and will take place at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on Sunday 3 April, 2011. TimeOut Hong Kong featured a survey of the collection in early March and we ran a preview of artwork and prices in the middle of February.


Related Topics: Ai Weiwei, Chinese artists, art spaces

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