x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's under house arrest

Ai Weiwei, a larger-than-life bearded political activist, helped create Beijing Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium but has since renounced that work as a 'fake smile'.

Satire invites studio closure

The party was over before it started for the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who has been put under house arrest after calling a wake in protest at a government order to demolish his new art studio in Shanghai.

Thousands of people were expected to converge on the $1 million (Dh3.7m) studio, which was branded illegal earlier this week.

Police had come to inform him he was barred from going, he told the Daily Telegraph from his studio in Beijing.

"I am under house arrest," said Ai, whose Sunflower Seeds exhibition is currently on show at the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in London.

"They asked me to tell everyone the party was off, but I said I couldn't do that and they'd have to stop me. So they came back to say I'm officially under house arrest."

An unmarked van carrying armed police had blocked the entrance to his home, he added.

Ai, 53, a larger-than-life bearded political activist, helped create Beijing's Olympic Bird's Nest stadium, but has since renounced that work as a "fake smile".

Last year, he was hospitalised with serious head injuries after being beaten by police in Sichuan Province when he went to give evidence in support of Tan Zuoren, an activist who had been jailed while investigating the collapse of thousands of schools in the 2008 earthquake.

Ai, who is still regularly updating his Twitter feed, had planned to serve 10,000 river crabs, or "hexie", to guests at the party. In Chinese, the word puns on "harmony", a government slogan.

Ai's installation of 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate is also loaded with satire. During the Cultural Revolution, propaganda depicted the population as sunflowers turning towards a sun represented by Mao Zedong.