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Weiwei Watch: International Art Community Rallies for Ai’s Release; Clinton’s Comments

The new message on the Tate Modern, London (image from its website and Twitter page)

[More on Ai Weiweihere, here, here and here.]

The Guggenheim Foundation has launched an online petition in which the international art community calls upon China to release artist Ai Weiwei from custody.

I have signed it; so should you. At this writing there are 4,361 signatories. (In the time it took me to finish writing and post this, the number jumped to 4,556.)

Here’s the stern text of the forceful petition, addressed to Chinese Minister
of Culture Cai Wu:


Our museums are
members of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the
International Committee of ICOM for Museums and Collections of Modern
Art (CIMAM), a non-governmental organization with formal relations with
UNESCO. On April 6, CIMAM sent a communiqué calling for the release of
Ai Weiwei. Our museums, foundations, and communities of Facebook
followers and Twitter fans support CIMAM’s statement:

“The detention of
artists and activists is not only inconsistent with China’s commitment
to the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and in China’s own constitution, it is also inconsistent
with the Chinese government’s pledge, through the Ministry of Culture,
to promote all artistic disciplines and to advance artistic ideas. As
organizations that represent modern and contemporary art around the
world, such actions and the obscurity surrounding them are diametrically
opposed to our values. They are of grave concern and consequence for
the well-being of Ai Weiwei and for the artistic community at large, and
hinder future collaboration with the Chinese colleagues we welcomed at
our recent annual meeting in Shanghai.”

The lead signatories are:

Richard Armstrong, director, and Alexandra
, senior curator of Asian art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

, director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

, president, Association of Art Museum Directors, and director
and president, Minneapolis Institute of Arts

, director, Museum of Modern Art

Yongwoo Lee, President, The Gwangju
Biennale Foundation

Vishakha Desai, president and Melissa Chiu, vice president of global arts, Asia Society

Sir Nicholas Serota, director, Tate, and
Chris Dercon, director, Tate Modern (where Ai’s installation, Sunflower Seeds, is on view to May 2)

Art museums (particularly those showing Chinese and/or contemporary art) should educate their visitors—both online and on-site—regarding Ai’s plight, providing opportunities (including a link from their homepages) for the public to add their names to this petition.

As suggested by the petition, “future collaboration with the Chinese colleagues” should stop until Ai is safe. What’s more, current collaborations should be reconsidered. I expressed my ideas on this more fully three days ago, in Weiwei Watch: The Artworld Must Respond.

Now the artworld HAS begun to respond. But words are not enough.

IN IMPORTANT RELATED NEWS: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today issued Remarks to the Press on the Release of the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, in which she said the following about Chinese human rights violations in general and Ai Weiwei’s detention in particular:

As we have said repeatedly, the United States welcomes the rise of a
strong and prosperous China, and we look forward to our upcoming
Strategic and Economic Dialogue with Beijing and to our continued
cooperation to address common global challenges. However, we remain
deeply concerned about reports that, since February, dozens of people,
including public interest lawyers, writers, artists, intellectuals, and
activists have been arbitrarily detained and arrested.

Among them most
recently was the prominent artist, Ai Weiwei, who was taken into custody
just this past Sunday. Such detention is contrary to the rule of law,
and we urge China to release all of those who have been detained for
exercising their internationally recognized right to free expression and
to respect the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all of the
citizens of China.

an ArtsJournal blog