Ai Weiwei Update: 06.09.11

Free Ai Weiwei Glasses, F.A.T.

• Philip Bishop, publisher of Artists Speak Out, writes in the Guardian that museums should be publicizing the plight of Ai Weiwei in their spaces, and gives props to those -- including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Walker Art Center -- who are.

• Roundly criticized for doing the exact opposite is the Milwaukee Art Museum, which is about to open a major exhibition of Chinese art in collaboration with China, and its director Dan Keegan. Keegan has refused to comment, and the museum hasn't said much about Ai, but Milwaukee Journal Sentinel arts writer Mary Louise Schumacher finally did get him on record. His response is both feeble and contradictory. "From the get-go we said we have to have the contemporary voice in this," he told Schumacher, yet that contemporaneousness is apparently utterly passive: "We don’t do protests," he said, echoing his PR flak, who recently said, "We don't do any politics."

Keegan's official statement doesn't mention Ai: "The Museum, as a cultural institution, does not support censorship, including self-censorship, of art exhibitions or artists based on unpopular or controversial subjects. We invite the public to experience the exhibitions and to attend the programs."

• Tyler Green on Keegan's statement: "I believe that art museum directors should be leaders in their communities, especially when it comes to issues that affect art, artists and our shared cultural heritage. I posit a 'fair question': Does Keegan have the ethical fortitude to be an art museum director?"

• The deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Mass., goes where Keegan won't.

• China's fear of words: The mere presence of Ai's name -- presented on an empty wall -- was enough for authorities to shut down the Incidental Art Festival at Beijing's CCD 300 gallery last week. The empty wall represents the absence of Ai, who has been in police custody for nearly 68 days.

• F.A.T. (Free Art Technology), which has given us a way to flip the bird at websites, like the Milwaukee Art Museum's -- in homage to Ai's "Study in Perspective" series -- now offers a low-tech version of the same: Glasses (above) that show Ai's outstretched middle finger, great for your next visit to Milwaukee. (Via Huh.)

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