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Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Released

Above: Two chairs from Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's "Marble Chair" series, currently on view at MCASD.

Audio

Aired 6/23/11

China has released international artist Ai Weiwei after a two-and-a-half month detention for economic crimes. Ai's work is currently on view at MCASD.

Beijing police have released internationally acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei after detaining him for more than two months.

Chinese state media states Ai was released on bail after confessing to tax evasion and because he has a chronic illness.

Ai's arrest in a Beijing airport on April 3rd and his subsequent detention by authorities sparked protests here in San Diego and around the world. In May, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego held a 24-hour sit-in to protest his detainment.

No explanation was given for Ai's arrest early on and his family was not notified of his whereabouts. Authorities later announced he was being held on a charge of economic crimes.

Ai's detainment was part of a crackdown in China on people the government considers dissidents. Many speculated that the crackdown stemmed from fears that the "Jasmine Revolution" in the Middle East would take root there.

In an interview on KPBS' These Days in April, MCASD Director Hugh Davies explained Ai's history with political protest:

He's always been provocative. His father was a dissident, a poet who was widely read in the thirties and '40s, and then in 1957 he was banished to western China to live on a farm. I guess the year that Ai Weiwei was born was the year he was banished. So Ai Weiwei has grownup with a family history of protest and challenging the government. And obviously during the communist regime, this has not been an easy thing to do. For instance, after the Sichuan earthquake which killed so many school children, Ai Weiwei drew a lot of attention through websites and twitter and that sort of thing to the fact that these buildings did not comply with building regulations, that there had been briberies, and that the contractors had used inadequate materials. And if you see the photographs, there are schools that collapsed and killed these children where the apartment buildings and shops and offices are untouched. And the government doesn't like this attention being brought to it.

Ai is one of China's most famous artists and is best known for helping design Beijing's Olympic Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest.

A sculpture by Ai Weiwei is currently on view at MCASD and is in the process of being purchased for the museum's permanent collection, though that process has run into problems related to Ai's detainment.

The officially sanctioned story from Chinese state media regarding Ai's release also states:

"The decision comes also in consideration of the fact that Ai has repeatedly said he is willing to pay the taxes he evaded, police said. The Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, a company Ai controlled, was found to have evaded a huge amount of taxes and intentionally destroyed accounting documents, police said."

Ai Weiwei's "Marble Chair(s)" will be on view at MCASD through July 10th.

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