Ai Weiwei: ‘Beijing Is a Nightmare’

Artist Ai Weiwei (Photo:

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei offers a vicious, stinging critique of the Chinese government in an article published in Newsweek this week, in which he describes Beijing as “a city of violence.”

Mr. Ai, who maintains a studio and residence in the capital city says that, in fact, “Beijing is two cities.” He writes, “One is of power and of money. People don’t care who their neighbors are; they don’t trust you. The other city is one of desperation.”

The opinion piece is the latest in a series of bold attacks that the artist has launched on Chinese officials, who earlier this year detained the artist for 81 days and charged him with tax evasion. The artist has denied those allegations, and many believe his detention was politically motivated.

Since being released in June, the artist has continually defied authorities, returning to his popular Twitter account (reportedly violating the terms of his release) and speaking openly about the harsh treatment he received while in custody.

Before increasing his criticism of the government in the wake of the May 2008 Sichuan earthquakes, which resulted in more than 60,000 deaths, Mr. Ai enjoyed some favor with Chinese officials and was hired as the artistic consultant for the Bird’s Nest stadium that Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Mueron designed for the 2008 Olympics, which were held in Beijing. However, in his piece, Mr. Ai is emphatic in distancing himself from the state. “None of my art represents Beijing,” he writes, and adds of the Bird’s Nest, “I never even think about it.”

“Beijing,” the dissident says, “is a nightmare. A constant nightmare.”

At points, Mr. Ai seems almost frustrated about the state of protest in China. He writes “No one is willing to speak out. What are they waiting for?” And he admits, “I really don’t know what I’m going to do.” Ai Weiwei: ‘Beijing Is a Nightmare’