Ai Weiwei’s Beijing Studio Demolished by Chinese Authorities
By Dennis MAO
The razing of Ai Weiwei’s Zuoyou Studio began on August 3. The cavernous former-factory space, located in the Left Right Art District on the eastern outskirts of Beijing, was Ai’s largest studio in the Chinese capital, and had been one of his main bases since 2006. Ai had been notified that he needed to vacate the space within days, but did not know exactly when the building was to be leveled. The artist’s team raced against the demolition crew on Friday afternoon to pack and remove the works stored in the studio. “They came and started knocking down the windows today without telling us beforehand. There’s still so much stuff inside,” said Ai’s assistant, Ga Rang.
Over the weekend, Ai shared time-lapse and slow-motion clips of excavators taking down the structure on social media. Responding to the news on Twitter, Alexandra Munroe, Samsung senior curator, Asian Art, and Senior Advisor, Global Arts, at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, described the demolition as “sickening and predictable.”
It is unclear whether the operation was targeted against Ai specifically. According to Ga, the Chinese government has plans to redevelop the former-industrial area into a commercial district. He added that the rental contract for the studio had expired in 2017 and Ai had been planning to relocate. In 2011, Ai’s Shanghai studio was similarly razed without prior warning.
For the past decade, Chinese authorities have been clearing swathes of suburban areas in Beijing. Ai’s studio is not the first to be affected. Most recently, in mid-July, both X Gallery and de Sarthe Gallery in Caochangdi art district were forced to leave their premises due to demolitions. “We were notified [last] Tuesday we needed to move by the end of the month," said Willem Molesworth, director of de Sarthe Gallery on July 23. “At the moment, there are only rumours about how the area will be redeveloped.”
Dennis Mao is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.
To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.