Thursday, April 7, 2011

Should President Obama say something in support of artist Ai Weiwei in China?

Should President Obama say something in support of artist Ai Weiwei in China?

If you follow art news online you have likely heard about the arrest of Ai Weiwei in China. A handful of politicians, mostly from Germany, have spoken in support of Ai Weiwei-- demanding his release. As it stands there has been little information released about Ai Weiwei from Chinese authorities. All that is known is that he is being held-- and many fear that he may meet the same fate that so many creative individuals before him have met under the oppressive Chinese government. When I read the opinions about Weiwei-- and the list of those supporting his release-- it forces me to ask… what stance does President Obama have on the issue? I for one think that he should make his opinion known.

When I mention this people tend to respond with a variant of, "He is busy with an economic meltdown"-- to me that is an excuse. After all, if President Obama can make basketball predictions and other comments about sports during an economic crisis I’m fairly certain that he can manage to make a statement in support of Ai Weiwei and the global art community. It is the perfect opportunity for him to live up to some of the things he said about the power of art during his historic presidential campaign.

I would like to see President Obama stand up for art worldwide. Many within the art community voted for him because they thought he would be pro-art in general. I don't think anyone can deny the support Obama received from artists during his run for office. There is a debt due in my opinion-- a debt to the art community in the United States as well as to artists worldwide.

I don't think President Obama’s support will magically make things in China better for visual artists-- but the impact of his words would hit harder than anything said by art critics and others who have shown support for Ai Weiwei. Mr. President-- I’m asking YOU to make a stand.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


  1. I totally agree! I have been following the story of Ai Weiwei with great interest. One thing I would add, and perhaps it is a part of the President's lack of active response, is the fact that news reporters and feature reporters (Amanipour) love to jump on the fact that a controvercial artist makes a great story...but when that artist needs press and visibility the most it seems they are busy with the 'next' story. IF they would stay on it and keep it fresh with follow-up it might be more prominent. Alas, Since I'm just a little voice in a vast world, I'm going to make and wear my Free Weiwei shirt and try not to think of what his true fate might be. Great post!

  2. WeiWei is a hugely important artist. Artists are not citizens of any one country. They belong to the world and as such deserves the protection of all nations.

    On a practical level, calling ones Senators and expressing this opinion can have an effect.