Ai Weiwei London exhibition 'effectively cancelled' over Gaza tweet

Ai Weiwei London exhibition 'effectively cancelled' over Gaza tweet
2 min read
16 November, 2023
Famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has seen an exhibition in London 'effectively cancelled' over a social media post on the Gaza war.
Ai Wewei visited Gaza for his film Human Flow [Getty]

Ai Weiwei has said his London exhibition has been "effectively cancelled" over a Gaza war post, telling The Art Newspaper that he was looking to "avoid further disputes and for my own well-being".

The famed Chinese artist, who has vocally supported the Palestinians, was due to open an exhibition at the Lisson Gallery this week but was axed after uproar over comments on Israel deemed by some to be "antisemitic".

The gallery owners have been involved in "extensive conversations" with Ai about the exhibition possibly being rescheduled.

"We together agreed that now is not the right time to present his new body of work. There is no place for debate that can be characterised as antisemitic or Islamophobic at a time when all efforts should be on ending the tragic suffering in Israeli and Palestinian territories, as well as in communities internationally," the gallery said in a statement.

"Ai Weiwei is well known for his support of freedom of expression and for championing the oppressed, and we deeply respect and value our longstanding relationship with him."

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It follows a Chinese language post by Ai in which he said, "The sense of guilt around the persecution of the Jewish people has been, at times, transferred to offset the Arab world".

"Financially, culturally, and in terms of media influence, the Jewish community has had a significant presence in the United States. The annual $3bn [£2.4bn] aid package to Israel has, for decades, been touted as one of the most valuable investments the United States has ever made. This partnership is often described as one of shared destiny."

He later deleted the post and said it may have lacked nuance.

"I understand that societal behaviour, whether at a national, collective, or religious level, cannot be oversimplified," he said.

"This means we cannot use a simple moral framework to express the so-called 'correct' expression."

Ai also said he is looking "to avoid further disputes for my own well-being", he told The Art Newspaper.

He visited Gaza in 2016 to film Human Flow, a German documentary on the impact of human migration.

Ai has been a vocal critic of the Chinese government which imprisoned him for nearly 81 days and his experiences in prison have been made into an art installation.

Israel has conducted a brutal five-week assault on Gaza, which has killed around 11,500 people including 4,707 children.

London has seen weekly protests bringing hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.