- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2011

LONDON (AP) - Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has vanished. But look around, and he seems to be everywhere.

More than a month after one of China’s best-known contemporary artist was arrested while trying to board a flight to Hong Kong, his name, his face and his art have been popped up across the globe. China’s communist rulers have steadfastly refused to say where Ai is or who’s holding him. His colleagues in the international art world say they want to make sure he doesn’t disappear from view.

“Release Ai Weiwei,” reads a message inscribed on the top of Britain’s Tate Modern, one of the country’s most-visited attractions. Just this week, two major exhibitions of the artist’s work are going up in London _ including one in the capital’s Somerset House, a high-profile venue which hosts the capital’s biannual fashion week. The other, at west London’s Lisson Gallery, features a two-story-high black-and-white photograph of the artist staring out from its facade.

“As long as he’s incarcerated, artists and cultural figures will be asking what we can do,” said writer Ekow Eshun, one of several people who attended the launch of Ai’s work, 12 massive, open-mouthed bronze animal heads meant to recreate the traditional Chinese zodiac.

It’s not just in London that Ai’s absence is making itself felt.

In Paris on Monday, British sculptor Anish Kapoor, probably best known to Americans for his reflective, jelly bean-like centerpiece to Chicago’s Millennium Park, dedicated his latest monumental work, entitled “Leviathan,” to the Chinese artist _ even though he acknowledged he’d never met him.

“He’s a colleague, an artist,” Kapoor told the Guardian newspaper. “In a very simple way, he is heroically recording human existence.”

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the city’s art community in honoring Ai at Manhattan’s Pulitzer Fountain last week, telling the assembled audience that the artist’s fearlessness in the face of official intimidation spoke to “the indomitable desire for freedom that is inside every human being.”

In China, where Ai is thought to be held secretly by the state security, artists in activists have also raised their voices in his support. Hong Kong, which has its own separate legal system, stencils of his likeness have been sprayed around and even laser-projected onto the local army garrison building.

Despite the growing outcry, China has refused to answer question about the artist’s fate.

“This case remains under investigation and those outside people should refrain from comment,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Tuesday.






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