• William Kioko

Ai Weiwei's Beijing studio been demolished

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist, who is a keen pro-democracy activist, he is also active in sculpture, installation, architecture, curating, photography, film, and social, political and cultural.

Chinese authorities were razing a Beijing studio of owned by artist Ai Weiwei, as his team race to remove years’ worth of his sculptures.

Ai Weiwei wrote on Instagram, below footage of an excavator clawing at a hole in the concrete wall, as workers boxed artwork in the cavernous hall. “Farewell,”

“They started to demolish my studio ‘Zuoyou’ in Beijing with no precaution,” he wrote in English.

He posted a series of other images of the studio, a former car parts factory in Beijing’s outer suburbs.

Some images showed it being dismantled, others showed it filled with monumental works from past exhibitions.

Ai helped to design the much-admired “Bird’s Nest” stadium that was at the heart of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and was used as its symbol.

However, even before the Games opened he had become increasingly critical of the authorities, particularly after a devastating earthquake in eastern Sichuan province just ahead of the Olympics.

Thousands of children were buried under schools that collapsed and Ai became an advocate for the dead and their families, compiling names of students entombed in their schools, and later creating works to honor them.

In 2011, he was detained by the Chinese government for 81 days and after his release he was accused of company tax evasion, charges that he said were politically motivated.

He paid a $2.4m (£1.5m) fine partly with donations from supporters, but his passport was confiscated for several years, preventing him from travelling. It was only returned in 2015, and since then, he has lived in self-imposed exile in Berlin.

Ai had been expecting to leave the studio soon, his assistant Ga Rang told AFP, because the rental contract on the space had expired last autumn.

However, Ga said, it had not been possible to remove all the artworks stored in the space because there were so many, and the sudden destruction put some of them at risk. “They came and started knocking down the windows without telling us beforehand. There’s still so much stuff inside.” The destroyed studio is where Ai built many of his most iconic works and Ga believes it will be hard to find a storage space large enough to house the artist’s massive installations. Work from his first Chinese solo show–a 1,500-piece reconstructed Ming dynasty temple–was packed up in boxes, stacked amid the shattered glass windows of the studio. Other pieces were standing outside surrounded by the deconstruction rubble.

It was not clear if the destruction was targeting Ai directly. Chinese authorities have been clearing swathes of suburban Beijing over the last year, and residents near the studio said the former factory area was slated for redevelopment, AFP reported. The artist and activist Ai weiwei art life has been destroyed he has no hope for art. The artist said "Anything that happens in this kind of society – one which violates freedom of speech and basic human rights – is political."

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