Category: Asian art

Ai Weiwei, Chinese government friction intensifies over webcams

April 5, 2012 |  8:45 am

Ai Weiwei

The public friction between Ai Weiwei and the Chinese government is starting to heat up again as the outspoken artist has grown noticeably bolder in his online activism in recent weeks. 

Ai, whose run-ins with Beijing authorities have made international headlines, was thrown in prison last April for a period of 81 days. To mark the anniversary of his detention, the artist recently set up  surveillance cameras in his own home and streamed the live footage of himself on the Internet.

But on Wednesday, authorities demanded that Ai take down his cameras and cease broadcasting, the artist told BBC News. Ai wrote on his Twitter account the same day that he "won't be shut down."

The site,, now appears to be deactivated. It was unclear if Ai complied with Beijing's request or if the site was forcibly shut down. But on Thursday, the artist told the New York Times that he and his colleagues had disconnected the four cameras and deactivated the site.

Last month, Ai told journalists that Chinese officials had removed his account on the popular microblogging site Sina. Reports stated at the time that Ai's account had been deleted shortly after it had been created.

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Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramovic documentaries opening this summer

March 28, 2012 |  2:15 pm


Two new documentaries about two iconoclastic artists -- Ai Weiwei and Marina Abramović -- will be gracing U.S. screens both big and small this summer. Both movies ran at the Sundance Film Festival and Berlin Film Festival earlier this year.

"Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" is set to open in New York on July 27 with a national rollout in August. The film also will be available to watch on-demand through Sundance Selects. Directed by Alison Klayman, the movie examines the life and career of the Chinese artist who has repeatedly run afoul of Beijing authorities for his advocacy of free speech.

Klayman began work on the movie before Ai was thrown in jail last year and completed the film following the artist's release after 81 days in prison. The movie won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance in January.

"Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present" is set to air on HBO on July 2. The cable premiere will be preceded by a theatrical engagement in New York and L.A., set for some time in June. (The L.A. engagement is scheduled for the Nuart Theatre, while the New York engagement will be at Film Forum.)

A performance artist who has achieved worldwide renown, Abramović received a career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2010. The documentary, directed by Matthew Akers, follows the artist as she prepares for the exhibition. The movie is being distributed by HBO Documentary Films and Music Box Films.


Ai Weiwei documentary gets middle-finger salute at Sundance

Demonstrators in L.A. show support for Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei talks about art, his health and life out of prison

-- David Ng

Photos: Ai Weiwei and Marina Abramović. Credits: Leon Neal / AFP/Getty Images; Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

Art review: 'Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha' at Blum & Poe

March 8, 2012 |  4:00 pm

"Requiem for the Sun: The Art of the Mono-ha," at Blum & Poe, explores a rich sliver of 20th century Japanese art that, though little known this side of the Pacific, provides an illuminating counterpoint to Western traditions of Minimalism and Land Art. 

Mono-ha, which translates roughly as "school of things," was the name given to a loose group of artists — there are 10 in the show — working in Japan in the socially tumultuous period of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The work, formulated largely in reaction to Western Modernism, is elemental and rigorously spare, favoring the careful arrangement of found objects over the crafting of raw materials. Of the nearly three dozen sculptures in the show, none involves more than two or three elements, composed with exquisite deliberation: a 14-foot steel pipe stuffed with cotton (by Katsuro Yoshida); a pair of black, lacquered steel containers filled so precisely with water that the liquid surface is indistinguishable from the lacquered sides (by Nobuo Sekine); a raw chunk of granite, 5 feet square, that sits like a weightless trinket in a huge paper envelope (by Susumu Koshimizu).  (Because of the originally ephemeral nature of the work, the majority of the pieces in the show are artist-sanctioned re-creations.)

The arrangements draw upon the unique physicality of each material, playing up contrasts and dialectical relationships — light and heavy; solid and hollow; hard and soft; organic and industrial — with a precision that gives them the feel of 3-D koans. Like the American Minimalists, the Mona-ha artists often employed these materials in such a way as to call attention to a work’s surroundings, emphasizing its effect on the space it occupied.

In a canonical work by Lee Ufan, the Korean-born artist who became the movement’s central theoretician, a large stone rests on a plate of glass that’s been shattered by its weight. In Kishio Suga’s “Infinite Situation II (steps),” a gallery stairwell has been filled with sand and graded into a smooth, even incline — a gesture that gently but decisively eradicates the function of the architecture, underscoring the tenuousness of the relationship between the built and the natural environment.  

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Ai Weiwei documentary gets middle-finger salute at Sundance

January 30, 2012 |  7:19 am

Ai Weiwei made a specialty of photographing his own middle finger in front of national monuments around the world. Audiences at Sundance saluted the Chinese artist with their own raised middle fingers over the weekend

When filmmaker Alison Klayman accepted a Sundance Film Festival award over the weekend for her documentary "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry," she asked everyone in the room to raise their middle fingers in salute to the Chinese artist whose online activism has repeatedly gotten him into trouble with Beijing authorities.

Why middle fingers, you may ask? The impolite gesture is a reference to Ai's photographic series known as "Finger," in which he brandishes his middle digit in front of famous national monuments and structures around the world, including the White House, the Eiffel Tower and Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The middle finger has become a kind of artistic calling card for Ai -- a playfully rude symbol that encapsulates the artist's jovial and rebellious spirit.

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Monster Mash: Ai Weiwei film opens; Julia Roberts in 'Normal Heart'

January 23, 2012 |  7:45 am


Eagerly awaited: The new documentary on artist Ai Weiwei premiered Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival. (Los Angeles Times)

Star power: Julia Roberts has signed on to appear in the movie adaptation of Larry Kramer's "The Normal Heart." Alec Baldwin and Mark Ruffalo have also joined the cast. (Hollywood Reporter)

Stepping down: Cate Blanchett and her husband, Andrew Upton, will conclude their run as the artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company at the end of the 2013 season. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Back home 1: New Zealand received 20 ancestral heads of Maori ethnic people once held in several French museums as a cultural curiosity. (Associated Press)

Back home 2: Italy has returned the head of a 2,000-year-old statue that was smuggled out of Libya in the 1960s. (Associated Press)

Coming soon: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, still reeling from last season's strike, has announced its 2012-13 season. (Detroit Free Press)

Artistic couple: Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Reynolds are expected to star in the movie "Big Eyes," a biopic of painters Margaret and Walter Keane. (Variety)

New leader: The Japanese American National Museum has appointed G.W. "Greg" Kimura as its new chief executive officer. (Los Angeles Times)

Expensive: A Stradivari cello has sold for more than $6 million. (New York Times)

Also in the L.A. Times: Music critic Mark Swed reviews the performance art programs of Pacific Standard Time; a review of Cirque du Soleil's "Ovo" at the Santa Monica Pier.

-- David Ng

Photo: Alison Klayman, center, director of the documentary "Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry,"  with the film's editor Jen Fineran, left, and composer Ilan Isakov at the premiere of the film at the Sundance Film Festival. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press

Monster Mash: Eisenhower family wants overhaul of Gehry memorial

January 12, 2012 |  7:52 am

he family of Dwight D. Eisenhower wants to overhaul the layout of the former president's planned memorial, which was designed by Frank Gehry

Drama continues: The family of Dwight D. Eisenhower wants to overhaul the layout of the former president's planned memorial, which was designed by Frank Gehry. (Associated Press)

Expanding: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is planning a new museum in Helsinki, Finland. (Agence France-Presse)

Genius: A letter written by Ludwig van Beethoven has surfaced in Germany. (BBC News)

Disruptive: A ringing cellphone halted a recent performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony by the New York Philharmonic. (Baltimore Sun)

Rumor has it: Broadway's "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," which received scathing reviews, could close on Feb. 19. (New York Post)

Apply within: Carnegie Hall is launching a new national youth orchestra. (Wall Street Journal)

Coming soon?: Broadway producers of the musical "Leap of Faith" are eyeing a possible spring opening. (New York Times)

Keeping count: Attendance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York dropped 11% last season, while the Metropolitan Museum of Art saw an increase in visitors. (Bloomberg)

Holy look-see: The Vatican Museums saw more than 5 million visitors in 2011. (Catholic News Agency)

Donation: Philanthropist Dame Jillian Sackler is giving $5 million to the Smithsonian's Asian art museum, which bears her late husband's name. The gallery will host Ai Weiwei's "Fragments," a large-scale sculptural work. (Associated Press and Washington Post)

Strange timing: The Charles Dickens Museum in London is defending its decision to close for a revamp during the 200th anniversary year of the author's birth. (BBC News)

Passing: Photographer Jan Groover, who specialized in still lifes, has died at 68. (New York Times)

Also in the L.A Times: The Kodak Theatre in Hollywood could be losing its most famous tenant -- the annual Academy Awards ceremony.

-- David Ng

Photo: Frank Gehry at a 2011 discussion for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. Credit: Charles Dharapak / Associated Press

Ai Weiwei is the focus of a panel at LACMA

December 5, 2011 | 11:51 am


Ai Weiwei will be the focus of a panel discussion Monday evening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the museum's Bing Theater and is free to the public.

Ai has made international headlines this year for his problems with Chinese authorities. In the spring, the artist was arrested and held in secret detention for more than 80 days before being released on bail. He is currently fighting a multi-million-dollar tax bill from the Chinese government.

Supporters of Ai believe Beijing is punishing the artist for his online activism. In recent years, the artist has taken to Twitter and other forms of social media to criticize the Chinese government and advocate for free speech.

LACMA is currently hosting's Ai's  "Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads," a large-scale, outdoor installation featuring the animals of the Chinese zodiac. The traveling work will be on display through February.

The LACMA panel will feature Stephen Little, curator and department head of the Chinese and Korean art department; Franklin Sirmans, curator and department head of contemporary art; and Christina Yu, assistant curator of Chinese and Korean Art.

Earlier this year, LACMA director Michael Govan was one of many museum leaders around the world to sign a petition demanding Ai's release from detention.


Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramovic documentaries heading to Sundance

Ai Weiwei talks about art, his health and life out of prison

Demonstrators in L.A. show support for Ai Weiwei

-- David Ng

Photo: Ai Weiwei exercises in a car park in Beijing in November. Credit: Peter Parks / AFP/Getty Images

Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramovic documentaries heading to Sundance

December 1, 2011 | 12:04 pm


New documentaries about artists Ai Weiwei and Marina Abramović are heading to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, which is set to kick off late January in Park City, Utah. The movies will be shown in the festival's documentary section.

"Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" is a documentary directed by Alison Klayman, who has been following the Chinese artist since 2008. Klayman started making the movie before Ai's arrest in early April, and completed the movie after his release in June. 

Ai was imprisoned for more than 80 days with virtually no contact to the outside world. His supporters believe the Chinese government was retaliating against the artist for his online activism in the realm of free speech. He was released on bail in late June and is currently battling the Chinese government over a $2.4-million tax bill.

Ai's installation "Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads" is currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through February.

"Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present"  follows the provocative performance artist as she prepares for her 2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Abramović is known for her extreme performance-art installations that often involve punishing forms of bodily deprivation as well as nudity. The documentary, directed by Matthew Akers, features intimate footage and interviews with the artist and her collaborators.

Abramović recently performed at the Museum of Contemporary Art's annual gala, which was held in November.

The Sundance Film Festival will run from Jan. 19 to 29.


Marina Abramovic's silent heads from MOCA gala speak out

Ai Weiwei talks about art, his health and life out of prison

-- David Ng

Photo: Ai Weiwei last month in Beijing. Credit: Andy Wong / Associated Press

Monster Mash: Graffiti artists upset over Jennifer Lopez commercial

November 30, 2011 |  7:36 am


From the block, too: Street muralists TATS Cru. claim a recent Fiat commercial starring Jennifer Lopez uses their work without permission. (New York Daily News and Fox Latino News)

Popular: "The Book of Mormon" on Broadway has recouped its $11.4-million investment after just eight months. (Hollywood Reporter)

Decision: An appeals court in Tennessee has ruled that Nashville's Fisk University can sell part of its Stieglitz art collection to keep the school financially afloat. (News Channel 5)

Intimidation: The wife of artist Ai Weiwei said police treated her as a "criminal suspect" when they took her away for three hours of questioning earlier this week. (Reuters)

Church and state: The American Civil Liberties Union is questioning the legality of a student-created crucifix mural in a public high school in Virginia. (ABC 8 News)

Art and life: The National Endowment for the Arts is forming a task force of 13 federal agencies to foster more research on how the arts affect human development at all stages of life. (Yahoo)

Controversial: Architect Maya Lin's design for a Doris Duke memorial is creating a rift among citizens of Newport, R.I. (New York Times)

Of all places: A museum in Rio de Janeiro has canceled an exhibition of pictures by photographer Nan Goldin because it includes nudity. (Agence France-Presse)

Eco-friendlier: An architect in Colombia is leading a crusade to use bamboo as a replacement for wood, concrete and other materials in construction. (Los Angeles Times)

Ruling: A judge has approved the Philadephia Orchestra's request to turn over two of its pension plans to a federal agency. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Also in the L.A. Times: A look at the Broadway-bound revival of "Jesus Christ Superstar" that is coming to the La Jolla Playhouse and Mark Swed calls the late director Ken Russell a "great imaginer of music."

-- David Ng

Photo: A screen shot from the Fiat TV commercial starring Jennifer Lopez and featuring a mural by street artist TATS Cru.

Monster Mash: 9/11 museum faces possible delay; Getty protesters

November 21, 2011 |  7:28 am

The planned 2012 opening of the 9/11 museum at the World Trade Center site could be delayed

Money trouble: The planned 2012 opening of the 9/11 museum at the World Trade Center site could be delayed due to unexpected costs. (Wall Street Journal)

Angered: A group of protesters held a rally outside the Getty Center this past weekend concerning the museum's ongoing legal battle over a sacred Armenian text. (Los Angeles Times)

Personal cause: Meryl Streep is keeping up her support for a Women's History Museum. (Washington Post)

Awards contender: "Pina," the 3-D dance documentary by Wim Wenders about the works of  choreographer Pina Bausch, is one of 15 films to make the shortlist of the Oscars' documentary category. (24 Frames)

Naked: Artist Ai Weiwei said Chinese police have begun investigating his assistant for allegedly spreading pornography online. The investigation appears to stem from a nude art photo depicting Ai and four women. (Associated Press via Washington Post)

Book excerpt: Steven Sondheim asks: Who needs critics? (The Guardian)

Talk of the town: American David Hallberg received mostly praise for his big debut as a member of the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. (Los Angeles Times)

Expansion: The Tel Aviv Museum of Art opened a parallelogram in concrete and stone designed by Preston Scott Cohen, with pre-cast curved forms on its outside and Israel's largest exhibition gallery within. (ArtInfo)

Out of commission: Stockard Channing is taking a brief leave from Broadway's "Other Desert Cities" to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday. (Broadway World)

Cultural politics: A Jerusalem dance company is joining in protests against policies concerning women and public spaces. (Haaretz)

London awards: Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch of "Frankenstein" shared best actor honors at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. (What's On Stage)

Passing: Al Boeke, the developer-architect whose vision spawned the Sea Ranch enclave on the Northern California coast has died at 88. (Los Angeles Times)

Also in the L.A. Times: Art critic Christopher Knight reviews "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan" at the National Gallery in London as well as the new Clyfford Still Museum in Denver; "8," the play by Dustin Lance Black about Proposition 8, will debut in L.A. in March.

-- David Ng

Photo: The 9/11 memorial plaza in the World Trade Center. Credit: Mike Segar / Associated Press


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