Following Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s (艾未未) exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilor yesterday accused the Taipei City Government’s Department of Cultural Affairs of putting political ideology before culture, and urged the department to seek Ai’s agreement to publish his artworks.
The museum organized an exhibition of Ai’s work from October last year to January. Dubbed “Ai Weiwei, Absent,” the exhibition featured 21 of Ai’s works, including photographs, installation pieces, videos, 12 bronze heads representing Chinese zodiac symbols and a new piece consisting of about 1,000 bicycles.
However, the artist accused the museum of being “too bureaucratic” and subject to political influence, and canceled a book publishing agreement with the museum.
DPP Taipei City Councilor Wu Su-yao (吳思瑤) yesterday raised the issue again by accusing the department of politicizing cultural affairs, and urged Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Liu Wei-gong (劉維公) to continue negotiating with the artist for his consent to publish the artwork.
“It would be the first time the museum has published a book of artwork after an exhibition without the artist’s consent. The department needs to communicate with him again and let him feel enthusiasm from the department, and get his consent to publish the book,” she said during a question-and-answer session at the Taipei City Council.
Wu showed a video clip at the council meeting of Ai’s video conference after a local screening of his film earlier this year. In the video, Ai described his exhibition in Taipei as one of his most disappointing experiences, and accused the museum of “having no interest” in publishing his book because of politics.
Liu denied that the department has handled the exhibition in a political and bureaucratic manner, and promised to make a greater effort to seek Ai’s consent to publish a book of his artwork.
“Our staff at the museum hasve been working very hard to seek Mr Ai’s consent, but he had different opinions on the content of the book … We will try our best to communicate with him,” he said.