Ai Weiwei closes exhibit in protest of refugee laws

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Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei is pulling his work out of an exhibit in Copenhagen in protest of the country’s new harsh laws on incoming refugees. The Danish parliament passed a series of laws on January 26th including a policy which allows the police to seize property of asylum seekers upon entry into the country. In response, Weiwei posted a statement on his Instagram and Facebook announcing the closing of his exhibit ‘Ruptures’ at Faurschou Foundation, which had opened in March 2015 and was set to conclude in April. His decision is backed by the gallery’s owner Jens Faurschou who shared Weiwei’s post on the gallery’s website.

The 58 year old, who recently exhibited large installation pieces on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, is known for his politically conscious work. In May of 2015 he received Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience for his dedication to combating human rights abuses. He is currently living in the Greek Island Lesbos, where he is conducting research on the European refugee crisis. Lesbos is a major thoroughfare for asylum seekers from Turkey, and Weiwei’s decision to live amidst chaos is reflective of his dedication to the large problem of displacement. Weiwei has been documenting the everyday lives of these communities to his Instagram. The series of images include intimate portraits of families and largescale landscapes of abandoned lifejackets. 

“They come with nothing, barefoot, in such cold, they have to walk across the rocky beach. Then you have this news; it made me feel very angry” explained Weiwei in an interview with The Guardian, “The way I can protest is that I can withdraw my works from that country. It is very simple, very symbolic – I cannot co-exist, I cannot stand in front of these people, and see these policies. It is a personal act, very simple; an artist trying not just to watch events but to act, and I made this decision spontaneously.”

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