Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei is the latest to face professional consequences after expressing his opinion on the volatile subject of Israel’s war on Gaza. A new exhibition by the artist at the London location of Lisson Gallery slated to open tomorrow, November 15, was postponed after the artist posted a comment on social media, the gallery confirmed to Hyperallergic.
“We together agreed that now is not the right time to present his new body of work,” Lisson Gallery said in a statement to Hyperallergic, adding that the decision was made after “extensive conversations” with Ai Weiwei.
“There is no place for debate that can be characterised as anti-Semitic 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’s statement continues. “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.”
Ai Weiwei’s studio has not yet provided a comment to Hyperallergic. He told the Art Newspaper, which broke the story, that he took the decision “to avoid further disputes and for my own well-being.”
According to the Art Newspaper, the now-deleted post on the social media platform X read: “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 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.”
A representative for Lisson Gallery told Hyperallergic that the rescheduling of the exhibition is “still in discussion.” The artist, however, told the Art Newspaper that his show has been “effectively canceled.”