Chinese authorities reportedly destroyed the studio of contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei in Beijing without warning.
Ai, a known critic of the government, posted videos of the unannounced demolition on his Instagram account on Friday and Saturday.
“Today, they started to demolish my studio Zuoyou in Beijing with no precaution,” Ai wrote about the destruction of his studio which has been his primary workspace since 2006.
In the video clips, an excavator can be seen smashing the windows of his Zuoyou studio.
While Ai has recently been based mostly in Europe, it was in the Beijing studio where he created some of his most memorable recent works, according to the Agence France-Presse.
Beijing authorities have conducted similar clearing operations in the past year, which involved the demolition of large areas of the suburbs in its “building safety campaign.”
New York-based website Art Net reports that several galleries in the area have been told that they were going to be removed to make way for redevelopment in late July.
“Free speech and free expression have simply never existed in China or in its artist communities,” Ai told NPR in an interview. “Those who do not belong to the establishment, including artists, are always the first to be discriminated against and sacrificed. Often, the authorities face no consequences in doing so.”
While it is still unconfirmed whether the demolition specifically targeted the artist, it is worth noting that it is the second studio belonging to Ai that has been destroyed by Chinese authorities. His studio in Shanghai was similarly destroyed in 2011, also without warning.
“Cultural structures do not really exist in a communist society. Art is seen as either party propaganda or as Western spiritual pollution,” Ai was quoted as saying. “The demolition of an artist’s studio or the eviction of artists as a silencing strategy doesn’t affect that society at all. It will remain the same society under one authority, one voice, and one ideology. It used to be called communism, but now it is state capitalism — a capitalism where the communists dominate both profit and power.”
The 60-year-old artist, who has openly criticized the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights, was charged with tax evasion and lived under house arrest in China from 2011 to 2015.
Ai was able to leave China in July 2015 after his travel documents were returned to him. He then moved to Germany with his family and established a studio in Berlin.
Feature Image via Instagram/aiww