The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been granted a visa to travel to Germany. it is now expected that he will be in London ahead of his major exhibition, which opens at the Royal Academy, on the 19 September. Last week police returned his passport after four years of house arrest. The Chinese dissident artist was famously detained in Beijing for 81 days in 2011, in an attempt to stifle his outspoken domestic views.
His first stop will be a visit to Germany where his six-year-old son is currently living. Mr Ai said, in a statement to the New York Times, that he planned to travel to Germany “as soon as I get a visa”. It is not entirely clear if Mr Ai will be able to leave China or return. In the past several Chinese dissidents have been stopped at airports leaving the country, while other activists have not been allowed back in.
China’s President Xi Jinping will make a state visit to London around the time of the RA exhibition and it is thought that the release of Ai Weiwei may be connected to the visit, as his continued detention would certainly be raised by the government.
The artist and activist has worked in a variety of different contexts, referencing Chinese art and culture through both the choice of traditional materials and interventions with original historic objects, as well as exploring international Western contemporary art. The idea of creative freedom, especially the increasingly political aspect of much of his work, will be a prominent feature and underpin much of the RA exhibition.