An exhibition of photos taken in New York by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, recently named the world’s most powerful art figure, opened to the press in Berlin on Friday — in his absence.
The Martin Gropius Bau museum in Berlin is showing more than 220 photos that Ai took when he was in his 20s and 30s in New York.
The exhibition displays a wide range of subjects, from street fights in Tompkins Square Park, transvestites at the Wigstock festival and portraits of Chinese and American artists.
But Ai, who curated the exhibition, was not there to introduce the work, saying in a short video message that he regretted his absence, without hinting at whether he was free to travel.
“I would have liked to have been in Berlin but I cannot. I hope that everyone will enjoy the exhibition,” he said in the message.
Chinese authorities released Ai in June after detaining the outspoken critic of the Communist Party for 81 days for “economic crimes” — a charge rights groups say was a smokescreen.
His detention sparked outrage around the world.
The exhibition, which has already been displayed in Beijing and New York but is premiering in Europe, opens to the public on Saturday.
“His photos show the political dimension of his work. … He knows what it is to be humiliated and that one should never give up,” said Gereon Sievernisch, head of the Martin Gropius Bau.
On Thursday, the influential Art Review magazine named Ai the world’s most powerful art figure, drawing criticism from Beijing.