On April 3rd, Ai Weiwei–internationally acclaimed Chinese artist and insistent government critic–was detained at the Beijing airport while en route to Hong Kong. Shortly after Mr. Ai was seized, more than a dozen police officers raided the artist’s studio in the Caochangdi neighborhood, cut off power to part of that area and led away nearly a dozen employees–a mix of Chinese citizens and foreigners who are part of Mr. Ai’s large staff. By Sunday evening, the foreigners and several of the Chinese had been released after being questioned, according to one of Mr. Ai’s employees, who was not in the studio when the public security agents arrived.
Rights advocates say the detentions are an ominous sign that the Communist Party’s six-week crackdown on rights lawyers, bloggers and dissidents is spreading to the upper reaches of Chinese society. Ai Weiwei, the son of one of the country’s most beloved poets, is an internationally renowned artist, a documentary filmmaker and an architect who helped design the Olympic stadium in Beijing known as the Bird’s Nest.
Inspired by one of Ai Weiwei's installations, Fairytale (2007) - in which Ai took 1,001 Qing dynasty wooden chairs to the German city, Kassel, along with 1,001 Chinese citizens for the Documenta 12 exhibition- a Canadian curator appealed to people worldwide via social networking sites to take chairs out onto the street and sit in silent protest.
Last Sunday, people the world over demonstrated, demanding the release of the Chinese artist.
The members of the international arts community, express their concern for Ai Weiwei's freedom and disappointment in China’s reluctance to live up to its promise to nurture creativity and independent thought.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is petitioning the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China (Minister Mr. Cai Wu) for the release of Ai Weiwei.
Sign the petition here - and forward it to everyone you can.