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Chinese Authorities Demolish Ai Weiwei’s Beijing Studio

Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei posted on Instagram earlier today that his studio in the Caochangdi arts district in Beijing was razed. He posted a video of a large excavator breaking the windows of his studio as it began to demolish the structure, which has served as his main studio space since 2006.

In a post he published on the social media platform, Ai wrote: “Today, they started to demolish my studio ‘Zuoyou’ in Beijing with no precaution . . . Farewell.” The defunct car parts factory is a hanger-size space situated on the outskirts of the city. Ai’s video of the beginning of the demolition shows several workers watching the destruction from within the building as they try to pack wooden crates with artworks and move them onto a truck bed.

Ai’s studio assistant Ga Rand, who has worked alongside the artist for the past ten years, told AFP that it “simply wasn’t possible” to save all the tools and works inside the building. “They came and started knocking down the windows today without telling us beforehand. There’s still so much stuff inside,” Ga said. He added that it will be difficult for Ai to find a similar space where the studio can produce large-scale works.

After the destruction began, Ai began posting images of the numerous works that have been created within the space since he has occupied it. Among the works that he made there are Template (Collapsed), 2009; Tree, 2015; Yu Yi, 2015; and a prototype for his sculpture Law of the Journey, 2017, an installation featuring people aboard a lifeboat.

This isn’t the first time that Ai lost his work space to the Chinese government. In 2011, Chinese officials ordered the demolition of  Ai’s studio in Shanghai. At the time, many of the artist’s supporters believed that Ai was targeted because of his activism. The artist is an outspoken critic of the Chinese government’s human rights offenses. During the same year that he lost his Shanghai studio, Ai was detained for eighty-one days, ordered to pay fines, and had his passport confiscated. When it was returned to him in 2015, he relocated to Berlin.

Last week, two other galleries in the area were forced to relocate after they were served eviction notices informing them that they only had thirteen days to vacate the premises to make way for a government development project. As of now, there has only been speculation over what will be built in place of the studios, galleries, and other local businesses that are being torn down.