Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is among 10 contemporary Chinese artists whose works are now on exhibit in Bergen, but Ai couldn’t be there for the opening last weekend. Chinese authorities have confiscated his passport over an alleged tax violation by the artist, who long has been critical of them.
Ai Weiwei is considered one of the most important artists in the world and his exhibit at the Kistefos Museum outside Oslo last summer attracted record crowds. More than 40,000 people made their way to the historic industrial complex outside Jevnaker that investor and businessman Christen Sveaas has turned into museum.
Now the exhibit at the art museum in Bergen (Kunstmuseene i Bergen) has also attracted widespread interest, from outside Norway as well. It’s called “Real Life Stories” and Ai’s new installation is marking its world premiere at it. Museum director Erlend Høyersten told news bureau NTB that he and his staff have had queries from art enthusiasts in many countries.
“It’s disappointing that Ai isn’t able to travel out (of China), because he has said he’d gladly come and see the exhibit,” Høyersten told NTB. “It would have been fantastic to have him here.”
Høyersten managed to meet Ai on a trip to China last fall. He had traveled to China to meet the artists who would be participating in this fall’s exhibit and “it was very surprising that we got to meet Ai Weiwei since he was under house arrest at the time.”
Høyersten told newspaper Dagsavisen that he had a book on Norwegian artist Edvard Munch and a bottle of cognac with him as gifts for Ai. Since the visit, Ai’s appeal of the tax evasion charges has been been denied and Chinese authorities also have made moves to shut down his company, allegedly because he didn’t meet registration requirements. Ai’s supporters claim the charges are simply part of the authorities’ persecution of Ai because they don’t like his criticism of the state.
“He was very clear that he wanted to come to Norway, but with the situation that’s developed, we can only hope,” Høyersten said. The exhibit in Bergen will remain open until February 3 next year.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
Please support our news service. Readers in Norway can use our donor account. Our international readers can click on our “Donate” button: