China's Ai Weiwei plans studio abroad amid repression
Controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said Tuesday he plans to set up a studio in Germany to showcase his work after facing huge hurdles in exhibiting art in his home country.
Ai, who is also a prominent political activist, told AFP he planned to establish the studio in Berlin and use it for publicity and exhibitions, although he will still use Beijing as his production and design base.
"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 said.
"But I will stay in Beijing unless the situation is an absolute threat to my life," he said, adding he had chosen Berlin because of the large community of artists there and the low cost of living.
Authorities have been extremely jittery since anonymous online calls for protests emulating those in the Arab world emerged mid-February, urging people to gather in dozens of cities around China every Sunday.
Up to 100 activists have since been warned, placed under house arrest or disappeared into police custody, rights groups say.
A frequent critic of China's Communist Party leaders, Ai has repeatedly run into problems with authorities in the past.
The 53-year-old said last month that his first large solo exhibition in mainland China had been cancelled after organisers said the timing was too politically sensitive.
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.
Ai, who currently has a show on at London's Tate Modern gallery, was also briefly placed under house arrest in November to prevent him attending a public event at his Shanghai studio.
Previously, he investigated school collapses in the massive 2008 quake in the southwestern province of Sichuan, which many believe were triggered by shoddy construction work.
© 2011 AFP