Will Ai Weiwei rebuild Shanghai studio in Ghent?


Flemish artist Wim Delvoye has offered Ai Weiwei the chance to rebuild his demolished Shanghai studio as part of Delvoye’s plans to install contemporary art in his proposed sculpture park in the grounds of his house in Ghent.

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing in 1 March 2010. Image credit: Reuters.

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing on 1 March 2010. Image credit: Reuters.

Delvoye told The Art Newspaper, in an article published on the art news website on 3 November 2011, that Ai “has kept all the pieces” of his studio and that “he was planning to do an installation with them”. The artist suggested to Ai Weiwei’s family that the rebuilding of the studio “would be a very mythological work and also a very autobiographical one.”

Shanghai studio rebuild not so straightforward

On top of the tax evasion charges that have been levelled on Ai by the Chinese government, AFP reported on 18 November 2011 that the artist is now facing a “new investigation over porn” conducted by the Chinese police. Ai has been banned from leaving China by the Chinese government and Delvoye’s invitation to rebuild the Shanghai studio in Ghent may not be a straightforward one. According to Delvoye, Ai’s assistants have warned him of potential consequences. “They say that if I built it, I will have trouble in China… they are advising me not to do it,” he is quoted as saying. According to The Art Newspaper, Ai’s studio has officially declined to comment on the offer.

Ai Weiwei no stranger to Ghent

It seems that Ai Weiwei is no stranger to Ghent and indeed to Belgium, a country in which he is widely respected. In 2010, Weiwei received an honorary doctorate from Ghent University and, in 2009, he worked with Flemish artist Luc Tuymans to create an exhibition entitled “The State of Things” which showcased contemporary art from China and Belgium at the Centre of Fine Arts in Brussels.

The government demolition of Ai Weiwei's Shanghai studio began and ended on Tuesday 11 January, 2011. Image from shanghaiist.com.

The government demolition of Ai Weiwei's Shanghai studio began and ended on Tuesday 11 January 2011.

Accomplished architect

Ai is a keen architect and designer. In 1999, he built a house and studio and founded the architecture studio FAKE design in Chaoyang District, in the north east of Beijing. Ai has since enjoyed overseas success in other architectural projects, such as his private residence in upstate New York, built in 2006 with HHF Architects. The residence was nominated for Best Private Home in 2010 by Wallpaper Magazine and in 2009 selected by Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design for its International Architecture Awards. However, Ai Weiwei’s China-based projects have been surrounded in controversy. Ai Weiwei’s Shanghai studio, the most recent of his architectural projects, was demolished by the Chinese government in 2010 and he has sought to distance himself from his work on the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, built for the 2008 Olympics in collaboration with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. Ai was quoted in the Taipei Times in August 2007 as saying, “I very openly criticise the tendency to use culture for the purpose of propaganda, to dismiss the true function of art and the intellect.”

Ai Weiwei works on show in Taiwan

For Ai Weiwei, the show continues. An exhibition of his work is currently running at the Taipei Fine Art Museum until 20 January 2012. Fittingly, the exhibition is called “Absence Itself Is the Current Status of My Art”.


Related Topics: Ai Weiwei, Chinese artists, art spaces

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