China artist Ai 'very happy' to take Berlin post
Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist whose detention triggered an international outcry, said Thursday he was "very happy" to accept a new professorship in Germany, but did not know when he would be able to go.
"I hope to be able to contribute something important in the future," Ai told AFP by text message after Berlin University of the Arts announced he had accepted a guest professorship.
"We have been in contact with the university for over a year now, so it was not a new decision," he said, adding it was "not clear" when he would be able to leave China.
The outspoken 54-year-old was arrested earlier this year during a major crackdown on dissidents in China, sparking furious criticism from Western governments and the international art world alike.
He was released on June 22, but the Chinese authorities have accused him of tax evasion and barred him from leaving Beijing without their permission.
Ai, the son of a poet revered by China's early Communist leaders, helped to design the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Games -- an event that brought worldwide prestige to the ruling Communist Party.
But his outspoken criticism of China's leaders and involvement in controversial social campaigns made him a thorn in the government's side, and he was subject to frequent detentions even before his arrest on April 3.
In January, his newly built Shanghai studio was demolished in apparent retaliation for his criticism of city policies, and he was blocked from leaving China in December ahead of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo for jailed Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo.
In March, Wei announced plans to set up a studio in Berlin to showcase his work, saying he had chosen the German capital because of the large community of artists there and the low cost of living.
"Most of my activities have been in Europe and I cannot really show my work in China... It's very discouraging what's happening here and if I want to continue to develop my work, I have to find a base," he told AFP at the time.
© 2011 AFP