Beijing authorities destroyed Ai Weiwei's studio without warning last Friday, three years after the artist relocated from China to Berlin.
On Friday, without any prior warning, one of Ai Weiwei’s studios was demolished by Beijing’s authorities. Since Saturday, the longtime critic of the Chinese government has been posting videos showing clouds of dust caused by the sudden demolition of a studio he has been using since 2006. The latest one, posted today, clearly shows all the studio walls have been removed – leaving a trail of destruction in their midst.
The artist’s website also appears to be down.
The demolition comes three years after the controversial artist relocated from Beijing to Berlin. Ai wasn’t present at the industrial demolition but has confirmed that some works have been damaged.
Speaking to NPR, Ai confirmed that the studio had received a forced removal notice but was still surprised when the demolishers turned up unannounced, and began tearing down the studio walls well before the indicated deadline. “Cultural structures do not really exist in a communist society. Art is seen as either party propaganda or as Western spiritual pollution,” Ai told National Public Radio. “The demolition of an artist’s studio or the eviction of artists as a silencing strategy doesn’t affect that society at all. It will remain the same society under one authority, one voice, and one ideology. It used to be called communism, but now it is state capitalism — a capitalism where the communists dominate both profit and power.”
Last month, Frieze reported that some buildings were already being earmarked for demolition, as red spray-painted 拆 (meaning “tear down”) began appearing on walls around the arts enclave. Artnet News has also been covering the forced closure of the contemporary art community, with several galleries confirming they too have been notified of immediate demolitions.
Associated Press has been reporting on the current redeveloped in part of Beijing, saying “large swaths of the suburbs over the past year in a building safety campaign.”
This isn’t the first time Ai’s workplace has been the target of Chinese officials. In 2011, the artist was also given notice that his studio would be torn down, only for the bulldozers to turn up, again unannounced, several days prior to the scheduled date. In an interview conducted by The New York Times, Ai said the government workers were less than sympathetic to his plight: “They said, ‘If the studio is to be taken down, it doesn’t matter if it’s sooner or later’.”