The name and work of Ai Weiwei were removed from an exhibition at Shanghai’s Power Station of Art a few days before its opening earlier this week because of pressure from local government officials, according to the organizer of the event and Ai, who believed that the move was a response to his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government.
The show, “15 Years Chinese Contemporary Art Award”, showcases the history of the art prize that Uli Sigg, a Swiss art collector and former ambassador to China, created in 1998 and includes some 50 works from over a dozen winners, according to the New York Times.
Mr. Ai won the award for lifetime contribution in 2008 and served on the jury the first three times the awards were granted. Two of his works, a wooden stool and porcelain sunflower seeds, were to be included in the show at the Power Station of Art, Mr. Ai said.
The state-owned museum negotiated with cultural officials over whether Mr. Ai’s works could be included, Mr. Sigg said. A few days before the April 26 opening, Mr. Sigg said, he was told that they could not.
“We were not really a party to this,” Mr. Sigg said. “In the end it was the Power Station and the cultural bureau. In the end we said we must accept. We don’t understand but we must accept that his works will not be in there.”
Sigg said he’d considered calling the show off, but chose instead to express his complaints in his opening comments. Ai posted to his Instagram account a photo of two boxes containing the porcelain sunflower seeds which he said had been left in the museum office.
Ai Weiwei, who has a track record for vocalizing his complaints with the government and censorship, believes his political views were the reason for his work being targeted.
Last month, Ai released a video ahead of the opening of his largest show to date, “Evidence”, calling on his pals at the Beijing Public Security Bureau to return his passport which was confiscated three years ago.
In more recent, less politically-fueled happenings, Ai snapped a selfie with Martha Stewart.