Lisson Gallery unveils ‘missing’ Chinese artist Ai Weiwei exhibition

THE Lisson Gallery in Edgware Road is set to unveil an exhibition of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s work today (Thursday) to protest against his detention by the Chinese authorities.

Weiwei is best known for co-designing the Beijing ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic stadium and for his artwork, which includes the landmark Sunflower Seeds which was on display at the Tate Modern until last week. He was arrested last month in Beijing and has not been seen since.

The Lisson Gallery is showcasing a selection of the artist’s key works from the past six years.

Greg Hilty, the Gallery’s curatorial director, hopes the exhibition will help highlight Weiwei’s plight. He said: “We are extremely alarmed by the detention of Ai Weiwei and his colleagues and are greatly concerned for his safety. Ai Weiwei is one of the leading cultural figures of his generation and consistently displays great courage in placing himself at risk to affect social change through his art.

“He serves as an example for legitimate social criticism and free expression both in China and internationally. Lisson Gallery has a long history of working with political artists and we strongly condemn any form of artistic suppression.”

The gallery will host a two-storey high image of Weiwei as a reaction to his detention, as well as covering the walls outside the gallery with posters of his quotes.

More than 1,000 people are expected to attend this evening’s public launch event. A private morning event will be attended by some of the most high-profile people in the art world.

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Since his arrest, Weiwei has received both international and local support. The international art community has set up a petition to try to hasten his release. More than 132,000 people have signed the petition so far.

Turner prize winning sculptor, Anish Kapoor, dedicated his new exhibition in Paris, which opened this week, to the artist. He said: “I wish to dedicate my new work Leviathan … to my colleague Ai Weiwei. His arrest, disappearance and alleged torture are unacceptable.”

However, it is not only artists who are upset by his arrest. Charlotte Eaton, a 32-year-old Londoner walked naked through the Weiwei’s sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern last week because she “wished to make a statement in solidarity with Ai about freedom”.

She had ‘freedom’ and ‘Thank you Ai Weiwei’ tattooed on her body.

The Lisson Gallery exhibition will feature a selection of Weiwei’s key works and show a preoccupation with different themes including consumerism and the erosion of Chinese culture under the cover of economic progress.

Mr Hilty said: “Beautifully crafted, conceptually acute, poetically resonant, these works provide a concise overview of his concerns as an artist.”

Ai Weiwei was arrested by Chinese authorities on April 3 in Beijing as he was trying to board a plane to Hong Kong. The Chinese government say he is “under investigation on suspicion of economic crimes.”

Weiwei is a vociferous critic of the Chinese government and has spoken out about the Olympics and the poor construction of schools that collapsed during the Sichuan earthquake.

o The exhibition will run at Lisson Gallery until July 16.