United Talent Agency (UTA) will be moving their Los Angeles art space from Boyle Heights to a former warehouse in Beverly Hills this summer with an architectural overhaul designed by their own client, renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.UTA opened their first art space in 2016 after founding a fine arts division to represent high-profile artists in 2015. While getting some positive press from art world critics, the space, along with a number of other L.A. galleries, received flack and community pushback for contributing to gentrification in the Eastside. Perhaps it is then fitting that UTA Artist Space will be relocating to Beverly Hills, taking over a 4,000-square-foot former diamond-tooling facility. Ai’s yet-to-be-released design is inspired in part by the architectural similarities of the concrete Los Angeles warehouse to his own Beijing studio. This is hardly Ai’s first foray into architecture. The artist has collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron on more than one occasion, including on major commissions like the Beijing National Stadium (commonly referred to as the “bird’s nest”) and the firm’s 2012 Serpentine pavilion. Ai has also collaborated with other firms on architectural projects and, since 2003, has run his own architecture firm FAKE Design. While Ai himself will exhibit a series of new marble works at the new UTA Artist Space this October, the gallery will open in July with a color field-focused show entitled One Shot featuring the work of Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, Sam Gilliam, and Jules Olitski, among others.
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(Updated 4-6-2011) As details emerge, be sure to track the comments on this post for the latest on Ai Weiwei. We have learned that the US State Department called for his release on Monday. According to VOA News, Mark Toner, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman saud, "The detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei is inconsistent with the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Chinese citizens, including China's commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we urge the Chinese government to release him immediately." Today, the Guardian reported that Ai Weiwei is under investigation for "suspected economic crimes" according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua which has since deleted the statement.
AN also received the following note of support for Ai Weiwei from Richard Meier. Please feel free to voice your messages of support in the comments.
Ai Weiwei deserves all of our support in his efforts to communicate with the world community of architects about the conditions that currently exist in China. We all hope that his immediate release will happen quickly in response to comments from all of us that support him in his cause.
(Original Report 4-4-2011) News that Chinese artist, architect, and activist Ai Wei Wei has been detained and disappeared as of April 3, 2011 broke yesterday in the International media. As reported by Andrew Jacobs in the New York Times, and more recently today by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, his detention and police closure of his Beijing studio coincides with what is known as the "Jasmine Revolution," a protest movement in the People's Republic of China that was inspired by the 2011 Tunisian Revolution and has prompted the Communist Party’s six-week crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists, with many of those detained still not released, and others, such as pro-democracy writer Liu Xianbin, sentenced to 10 years in jail for subversion.
While his arrest is not unexpected, and indeed was anticipated by Wei Wei and others in his community, it is a devastating and saddening blow that follows upon the forced demolition of his Shanghai studio in January of this year, his recent house arrest in the wake of Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize, and his beating by Chinese police in August 2009, with emergency brain surgery required.
Wei Wei, the son of revered Chinese poet Ai Qing (regarded as one of the finest modern Chinese poets and himself imprisoned by the Chinese Communist Party), is internationally recognized for his cultural and architectural practice as well as his tireless activism on behalf of social justice and political reform in China.
His many projects include the Bird's Nest (2008), a landmark design for the Beijing Olympic National Stadium (together with Herzog and De Meuron); Fairytale (2007), in which he sent 1001 Chinese citizens to Kassel, Germany as a cross-cultural exchange; and the Sichuan Earthquake Names Project, which sought to uncover the names of the thousands of schoolchildren who died in the Sichuan earthquake of May 2008, many as a result of poor maintenance of school buildings.
His 2010 "Sunflower Seeds" exhibition, currently on display at Tate Modern, features 100 million porcelain seeds made in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen and forms a seemingly infinite landscape in the museum's Turbine Hall. As a commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses, the project explores the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange and, as curator Juliet Bingham has remarked, invites us to consider such questions as "What does it mean to be an individual in today's society?"
We urge the Chinese government to respect Wei Wei's health and to insure his safety, and to release him immediately. His detainment and disappearance is a great tragedy and devastating blow to the international community. Wei Wei is an artist that feels a great love and compassion for China and her people, and we urge the Chinese government to recognize this fact and allow him and his family the freedom if not to speak freely, then to at least leave.
We strongly encourage you to raise your voice and to contact your elected representatives, government contacts, and civic institutions, to advocate for official statements and positions on his behalf as well as all of those that have been detained these last weeks in response to the Jasmine Revolution.