ai weiwei

Hong Kong’s M+ Museum Has Removed Ai Weiwei’s Famous Tiananmen Square Photo From Its Website While It Awaits Government Review


The news that Hong Kong’s M+ Museum would not display Ai Weiwei’s photograph of Tiananmen Square in its inaugural exhibition made international headlines earlier this year. Now, the institution has taken another step, removing the image from its newly launched website while it is under review by the authorities, Midnight Publishing Group News has learned.

Pro-Beijing politicians had accused Ai’s Study of Perspective: Tian’anmen (1997)—which depicts the Chinese dissident artist raising a middle finger at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square—of “spreading hatred against China” under the country’s national security law, which went into effect in Hong Kong last June.

Another work by Ai, Map of China (2003), has also been censored online. That sculpture, a 3D map of the country made of wood salvaged from demolished Qing Dynasty temples, aims to celebrate China’s cultural and ethnic diversity. The sculpture and photograph are part of the M+ Sigg Collection, a major Chinese art trove donated to the museum by Swiss entrepreneur Uli Sigg.

Both images could be seen on the beta version of the M+ collection website, but were no longer available when the final site went live on August 10.

“M+ is reviewing the treatment of certain images of works having regard to the advice obtained from relevant authorities including the Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration,” a spokesperson for the museum told Midnight Publishing Group News. “The images concerned are not uploaded pending completion of the review.”

A screenshot of M+'s website, with images of some Ai Weiwei works missing.

A screenshot of M+’s website, with images of some Ai Weiwei works missing.

Many images of works by Ai are accessible on the website, including Still Life, an installation comprising thousands of axes from the Stone Age that was exhibited when the M+ Sigg Collection was first unveiled in Hong Kong in 2016, as well as other pieces from the “Study of Perspective” series, including Bundeshaus Bern (1999) and White House (1995).

Ai questioned the inconsistent treatment of the series. “Why is M+ not showing Tian’anmen but keeping White House?” the artist told Midnight Publishing Group News. (Ai recently wrote an op ed for Midnight Publishing Group News about M+’s decision not to show the work in its opening show.)

Hong Kong’s Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration is responsible for “enforcing the film classification system under the Film Censorship Ordinance,” “controlling the publication of obscene and indecent articles,” and the registration of local newspapers. The government proposed in August to amend the Film Censorship Ordinance, giving the chief secretary, the city’s number two executive, power to revoke any approval given to a film should its exhibition “be contrary to the interests of national security.”

Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective: Tian'anmen (1997). M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong. By donation, © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective: Tian’anmen (1997). M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong. By donation, © Ai Weiwei.

In addition to the two works by Ai, a number of other objects in the M+ collection are not shown on the website, including some of those by Kacey Wong, who is known for his political art and recently left Hong Kong for Taiwan in “self-imposed exile.” However, some works that might be considered politically sensitive, such as Liu Heung-Shing’s photographic series “China After Mao” and images depicting the summer of 1989 in Beijing following the Tiananmen crackdown, are accessible.

The soon-to-open museum stated that digitization of its 8,000-object-strong collection “is an ongoing effort” and that the collection “will be updated periodically as new works, information and intellectual property rights become available.”

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LACMA’s Game-Changing Partnership With Mega-Collector Budi Tek Will Kick Off With a Show of Contemporary Chinese Art


In 2018, Chinese-Indonesian art collector Budi Tek announced an unprecedented partnership with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) that effectively granted the museum—vis-a-vis a dedicated foundation—co-ownership of his vaunted collection of contemporary Chinese art.

Now, for the first time, a selection of art from that trove is on view at LACMA. Twenty pieces from Tek’s collection make up the new exhibition “Legacies of Exchange,” including works by Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing, and Qiu Anxiong, among others.

The show “highlights works that relate to cross-cultural exchange, both recent and historical, between China and the West,” said Susanna Ferrell, LACMA’s assistant curator of Chinese Art who organized the show, in a statement.

The first of the show’s two sections brings together examples of Chinese artists in conversation with historical European paintings. In a 2006 canvas, for instance, Zhou Tiehai reimagines Jacopo Palma’s Venus and Cupid with the mascot for Camel cigarettes standing in for the Roman Goddess. In a 1997 painting, Yue Minjun recreates the central young girl in Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas as a hysterical pink man.

The second half of the exhibition, meanwhile, looks at the ways in which artists have appropriated the language of commercial advertising in their work, such as in Huang Yong Ping’s 1997 installation Da Xian: The Doomsday. The piece comprises a trio of larger-than-life porcelain bowls filled with boxes of cereal that all give the same expiration date: July 1, 1997, the day of Hong Kong’s handover to China.

Yue Minjun, <i>Infanta</i> (1997). © Yue Minjun. Courtesy of Pace Gallery.

Yue Minjun, Infanta (1997). © Yue Minjun. Courtesy of Pace Gallery.

A prominent entrepreneur, Tek began collecting art in 2004. By 2014, he had amassed a personal collection of more than 1,000 pieces and founded a 9,000-square-foot private institution—the Yuz Museum in Shanghai—to house it all. Then came an unfortunate turn: The following year, Tek was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Just as quickly as his museum opened its doors, Tek was forced to decide its long-term future. After China denied attempts to make the Yuz Museum public, Tek turned to Michael Govan, LACMA’s CEO and director, with an alternative idea. Their eventual collaboration yielded a new foundation to oversee the collection, which would live in China but otherwise travel between LACMA and the Yuz museum for temporary exhibitions.

Likewise, the foundation is governed by a board of trustees made up equally of representatives from LACMA and the Yuz Museum.

“I said to Michael Govan, ‘Now we are like a husband and wife. You don’t vote by saying I’m one percent bigger than you—you can’t outvote someone,’” Tek told Midnight Publishing Group News in 2018.

The first fruits of the partnership came in the form of “In Production: Art and the Studio System,” an exhibition of works from LACMA’s collection that brought in over 20,000 visitors to the Yuz Museum in 2019. 

See more images from “Legacies of Exchange” below.

Installation view of “Legacies of Exchange: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Yuz Foundation” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2021. Courtesy iof LACMA.

Installation view of “Legacies of Exchange: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Yuz Foundation” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2021. Courtesy of LACMA.

Wang Guangyi, <i>Joseph Beuys' Dead Hare</i> (1994). © Wang Guangyi. Photo: Arnold Lee, Dijon Yellow Imaging.

Wang Guangyi, Joseph Beuys’ Dead Hare (1994). © Wang Guangyi. Photo: Arnold Lee, Dijon Yellow Imaging.

Installation view of “Legacies of Exchange: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Yuz Foundation” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2021. Courtesy of LACMA.

Installation view of “Legacies of Exchange: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Yuz Foundation” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2021. Courtesy of LACMA.

Qiu Anxiong, <i>The Doubter</i> 2010). © Qiu Anxiong. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Julian Wang.

Qiu Anxiong, The Doubter 2010). © Qiu Anxiong. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Julian Wang.

Installation view of “Legacies of Exchange: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Yuz Foundation” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2021. Courtesy of LACMA.

Installation view of “Legacies of Exchange: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Yuz Foundation” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2021. Courtesy of LACMA.

Legacies of Exchange: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Yuz Foundation” is on view now through March 13, 2022 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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