June 2, 2011 / 11:15 AM / 8 years ago

Beijing artists detained after homage to Ai Weiwei

BEIJING (Reuters) - The organizing artists of a Beijing art show who reserved a blank gallery wall with a small name tag as a show of support for detained artist-activist Ai Weiwei have been detained by police and their exhibit was shut down.

Fei Xiaosheng, an organizer of the Third Incidental Art Festival gestures in front of the wall left blank in support of detained artist-activist Ai Weiwei, during the opening ceremony in Beijing June 1, 2011. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

Lin Bing and Fei Xiaosheng were called in for questioning by police Wednesday evening after the opening of their photography exhibit, an employee at the CCD300 Modern Art and Design Center said Thursday.

“Lin Bing has already returned, but Fei has yet to be in contact. The gallery is still open, but the photos have already been taken down,” the woman named Yang said.

She said gallery owner Shi Yong had not been detained, and it was unclear if Fei was still being questioned by police.

The two artists’ mobile phones were turned off Thursday.

Posts on China’s most popular microblogging site, Weibo, said two other artists among the group of 20 that exhibited at the Incidental Art Festival’s photo show — Wang Jun and Zhang Feng — had also been questioned at police stations.

The organizers’ gesture of support for China’s most politically controversial artist was a rare public display from mainland China’s artistic community, which has largely stayed silent in public about Ai’s detention.

Ai was detained at Beijing airport on April 3.

Chinese police told state media last month that a company Ai controlled, The Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., had evaded a “huge amount” of taxes and destroyed accounting documents.

But family members and supporters say the outspoken 53-year-old artist is a victim of a crackdown on political dissent that intensified after overseas Chinese websites in February called for protests in China to emulate anti-authoritarian uprisings in the Arab world.

The exhibition opened at an especially sensitive time, as authorities were bracing for Saturday’s 22nd anniversary of the government’s violent crackdown against pro-democracy protests around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Ai had supported the festival — which was in its third year — and exhibited art in a past show. Lin had said that Ai would have participated again had he not been in police custody.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Sugita Katyal

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