China’s Ai Weiwei gets Spain art show

A Barcelona gallery on Tuesday inaugurated a retrospective of works from the past three decades of dissident artist Ai Wei Wei, who has been banned from leaving China since 2011.

China's Ai Weiwei gets Spain art show
A picture taken on Monday shows an artwork from the Study of Perspective series by Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei at Barcelona's La Virreina Image Centre. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

The "On the Table" show at Barcelona's La Virreina gallery spans photos, videos, sculptures, installations and architecture models from Ai's stint in New York in the 1980s to recent works.

"There are over 40 objects with a selection of items from the beginning of his career as well as works that are now iconic and well known and works made especially for this exhibition," the show's curator Rosa Pera said.

The goal of the exhibition is to show how China's best known contemporary artist uses images to explore "the tension between truth and lies, evidence and ambiguity, control and freedom," she said.

SEE ALSO: Ai Weiwei art opens Stockholm film festival

A sculptor, designer and documentary-maker, Ai has irked Beijing by using his art and online profile to draw attention to injustices in China and the need for greater transparency and rule of law in the world's most populous country.

Despite his fame, Ai has been banned from leaving China since being secretly detained for 81 days three years ago by China's authoritarian communist government for reasons that were never specified.

After his release in June 2011, Ai's design firm was slapped with a hefty tax bill, which he fought unsuccessfully in Chinese courts.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is a table and ten chairs normally installed in Ai's studio in Beijing where he meets to discuss his projects. He sent it as a symbol of his inability to attend the show in person.

The public is invited to sit in the chairs, take pictures and then upload them on social media sites, a preferred medium of the artist.

"When you put something on the table … you do not keep any cards up your sleeve and you show everything you are capable of doing," said Pera, explaining the title of the exhibition which will run until February 2015.

SEE ALSO: The Local's guide to what's on in Spain in November

One of the works made specially for the show is an installation consisting of pieces of marble that simulate grass sprouts emerging from the ground.

The walls of the room where the installation is displayed are decorated with stamped images of an extended middle finger.

Among the items on display is his "Study in Perspective" photo series, where the artist's middle finger is positioned in front of global  landmarks, such as the White House, the British parliament and the Sydney opera house.

The show also includes some of his most famous works, including an ancient ceramic jug decorated with a Coca-Cola logo, a map of China made out of wood from ancient Chinese temples and a small sample from the 10 tonnes of porcelain sunflower seeds which covered the floor at London's Tate Modern as part of his 2010 installation "Sunflower Seeds".

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China derides Copenhagen democracy meet as ‘political farce’

China on Tuesday blasted a democracy conference in Copenhagen attended by Taiwan's president and a Hong Kong activist alongside Danish government officials this week, qualifying it a "political farce".

China derides Copenhagen democracy meet as 'political farce'
Demonstrators gathered outside the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Tuesday. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Copenhagen Democracy Summit was held Monday and Tuesday in the Danish capital and organised by the Alliance of Democracies, an organisation targeted by Beijing sanctions in March and founded by former NATO boss Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

In addition to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod also participated in the forum by video link, which Beijing said violated “the one-China principle.”

“This summit is a political farce,” the Chinese embassy in Denmark wrote in a statement published on Tuesday. “Inviting those who advocate Taiwan and Hong Kong ‘independence’ to the meeting violates the one-China principle and interferes in China’s internal affairs,” it said.

“Some hypocritical western politicians are good at meddling in other countries’ internal affairs and creating divisions and confrontation in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. They are bound to fail,” it added.

At the conference on Monday, Kofod said it was “deplorable” that Beijing had imposed sanctions on 10 European individuals and organisations in response to EU sanctions on Xinjiang officials over their actions against the Uyghur Muslim minority.

Like most countries, Denmark applies the one-China principle — under which Beijing bars other countries from having simultaneous diplomatic relations with Taipei — though it does maintain relations with Taiwan.

Cut off politically from the rest of China since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the territory is self-governing but is not recognised by
the United Nations.

Beijing considers Taiwan a rebel province that will one day return under its control, by force if necessary.

China’s sabre-rattling has increased considerably over the past year, with fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers breaching Taiwan’s air defence zone on a near-daily basis.

“Our government is fully aware of the threats to regional security, and is actively enhancing our national defence capabilities to protect our
democracy,” Tsai told the conference in a video address on Monday. US President Joe Biden is expected to present his China strategy soon, as
calls mount for him to publicly commit to defending Taiwan militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.