Dissident artist Ai Weiwei has secretly spent 18 months creating six sculptures of the 81 days he spent in detention in China for “tax evasion” in 2011 and has shipped them out of the country.
The six works, entitled S.A.C.R.E.D, have gone on display at the Venice Biennale.
Ai Weiwei has declined to say how he managed to sneak the artwork out of China.
Six shoulder-high iron boxes went on display in the nave of Venice’s Church of Saint’Antonin today. Within each box is a viewing slit revealing scenes of the artist held in detention by Chinese officials.
In one, Ai is eating while two guards stand to attention next to him; in another he is showering with two guards watching his every move; he can be seen sleeping with two guards standing over him in another of the dioramas.
Ai said he intended the work to “give people a clear understanding of the conditions” of imprisonment.
“All the time I was inside I thought that if I ever get out I will stop all this- I will just go and sit on a beach…[but] I couldn’t just forget about all those people who were still inside. I will have to carry on,” he told the Financial Times.