Ai Weiwei The Chinese Artist responsible for the Sunflower seed installation, this years Unilever sponsored exhibit in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, has been placed under house arrest in his residence in Beijing. It was reported on Sunday afternoon that three men in plainclothes in a minivan with no license plates was blocking the entrance to Ai’s home in an artists colony on the eastern edge of the city. “I’m under house arrest to prevent me from going to Shanghai. You can never really argue with this government”. In recent years, Weiwei has gained notoriety for his social activism as much as for his art. Ai was courted by the communist government as a cultural ambassador before his advocacy of social activists made him a target for internal security. Ai was responsible for the outstanding visuals used in the Beijing Olympic ‘Birds Nest’ stadium. He was planning to fly to the Chinese financial hub, but people he suspects were police told him Friday that he would not be permitted to leave his Beijing home. Speaking by telephone, He said the men refused to identify themselves and it wasn’t clear who gave the order to detain him. It is well documented that Ai was beaten and detained while attempting to attend the trial of an advocate for victims of the devastating 2008 earthquake in the southwestern city of Chengdu. He later started a successful Twitter campaign helping to reunite victims of the quake. Ai has exhibited and contributed to projects throughout Europe and the United States, and his latest installation involving 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds is currently attracting thousands of viewers in London. His notoriety had prompted Shanghai’s government to invite him to open a studio to give the city added cultural cachet, but his subsequent activism appears to have turned cautious. Ai’s detention comes amid a crackdown on China’s small, embattled dissident community prompted by the awarding last month of the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo. This latest detention will have a proactive effect for others expressing their support for democracy in China. Worldwide protest is expected to continue.
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