Ai Weiwei wins White Box award for “defending human rights against oppression”


During a benefit for New York non-profit art space White Box on 25 April 2012, dissident artist Ai Weiwei was awarded the first Richard J. Massey Award for Arts and Humanity. Still under house arrest, Ai accepted the award via Skype.

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

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing. Image credit: Reuters.

White Box Founder and Director Juan Puntes organised the event, which culminated with the inaugural prize, a USD5,000 monetary award and an art piece Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar created in his honour. The lightbox sculpture displays a hacksaw with the blade replaced by a chain. The award was presented by preeminent Chinese legal scholar Jerome Cohen, critic Eleanor Heartney and benefactor Richard J. Massey. Also in attendance was Jerome Cohen’s son, contemporary Chinese gallerist Ethan Cohen, who serves as President of the White Box Board of Directors.

I know no other artist with such fame and recognition as Weiwei, who has chosen to spend his life and devote his work to defending human rights against oppression.

Juan Puntes, Founder and Director of White Box

Ai Weiwei has been under house arrest since being released from police custody in June 2011. He was detained for 81 days. Chinese officials leveled several claims against him, including bigamy and distribution of pornography, before settling on a charge of tax evasion. The Taipei Museum of Fine Arts held a major exhibition of Ai’s work spanning three decades, which ended on 29 January 2012. In April 2012, Ai incurred the ire of his captors for setting up WeiWeiCam, a web-streamed video feed from inside the artist’s home. A subversive commentary on the 24-hour surveillance under which Ai lives, the project lasted 46 hours before Chinese officials shut it down.


Related Topics: Ai Weiwei, activist art, art prizes

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