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Artist Ai Weiwei Denied Flight to South Korea, Learns He’s Unable to Leave China

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Following a very brief period this summer when his “Sunflower Seeds” installation at the Tate Modern was making headlines and winning over crowds, artist Ai Weiwei is still having a rough time of things in his native China. Though not nearly as bad as the beatings he received by officials or learning that the government there had decided to demolish his Shanghai studio and put him under house arrest, Weiwei ran into the iron fist again this week when police refused to let him board a flight from Beijing to South Korea. Reuters reports that the artist was told “he was not allowed to leave China on grounds of endangering security.” Weiwei told the news outlet that he believes his travel ban is connected to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a currently-imprisoned Chinese dissident at the end of this week, that his government is concerned that controversial artists such as himself might try and sneak over to Norway for the official ceremony as a move of solidarity and support for the jailed activist. Reuters reports that other artists and activists with Weiwei-like sympathies have also been detained and denied the ability to leave the country.

Very briefly in other news related to the artist: Cai Yuan, an artist in the UK, recently sneaked past the cordons that had been put up around Weiwei’s “Sunflower Seeds” at the Tate and stood on the work for nearly an hour before museum officials were able to remove him. This isn’t the first time Yuan has made news for trying to involve himself in other artist’s work, as the AFP reports that he “has performed similar stunts before with famous artworks, including jumping on Tracey Emin‘s unmade bed and trying to urinate on Marcel Duchamp‘s ‘Fountain’ urinal.” Weiwei responded to the news by telling the Global Times, “To stage a demonstration is his personal freedom, and I’m fine with it. Cai creates art in his own way.”

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