Walker Art Center's Olga Viso on Ai Weiwei's arrest

More figures in art and government are speaking out about the arrest and detention without official charge of China's most famous artist, Ai Weiwei. The latest is Olga Viso, director of Minneapolis' Walker Art Center and former deputy director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. In an email to Eyeteeth, she writes:

Having visited the artist last year in his Beijing studio and in dialogue with him about potential projects, I have been following the news reports with great concern, as have many people at the Walker and colleagues around the world. The suppression of artistic freedom in any society is deplorable. To see China hark back to the Cultural Revolution, in which so many artists, including Weiwei's father, were targeted is horrifying.

Chinese authorities are now openly saying Ai is "under investigation on suspicion of economic crimes." In the first official comments on the arrest, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, "It has nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression. Other countries have no right to interfere."

Ai's sister, Gao Ge says the claim is "absurd" because "the way he was taken and then disappeared shows it's nothing of the sort. This is more like a crime gang's behaviour than a country with laws."

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Paul Schmelzer's picture
Paul Schmelzer

Paul Schmelzer is a writer, editor, and journalist, and the web editor at the Walker Art Center.