Ai Weiwei Fights Back Against $2 Million Tax Bill

November 1, 2011

In August, a Twitter follower asked Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei whether “In today’s China … we should deal with everything by describing the actual facts or should we [just] live our lives satirically?”

“Either confront things or leave quietly,” Ai responded*.

Ai certainly lives by his word: After Chinese authorities demanded payment of a $2.3 million tax bill within 15 days, he not only posted the bill to his Google+ page, but he also told a number of Western media outlets that he will challenge the decision.

Ai told the BBC that he had not been shown any evidence that his company had evaded tax payments, but that the authorities had taken his account books. “If it’s a tax problem, I’ll pay. But if it’s not, I won’t pay,” he told Reuters. “This whole matter is ridiculous.”

The dispute comes as a new exhibit of Ai’s work, titled “Ai Weiwei: Absent” opened last week in Taiwan. Among the exhibition’s 21 works are a surveillance camera carved out of marble, an installation of 1,200 bicycles mean to symbolize a changing China, and a photograph of Ai making an obscene gesture in the direction of Tiananmen Square.

“This is the first time I’m having an exhibition of my works in the wider Chinese world,” Ai explained. “I’m really happy that it can be exhibited in Taiwan because recently it has not been possible to have an exhibition in my own place of residence.”

Earlier this month, Ai was named 2011’s most powerful artist by Art Review and he recently directed a cover shoot via Skype for W Magazine that alludes to his two-and-a-half-month detention by Chinese authorities this spring.

Bonus: “What happens when you become the modern-day, artistic equivalent of that young man who once stood before the tanks of Tiananmen Square?” Read more on Ai and “The Art of Resistance” from The Wall Street Journal Magazine.

*English translations courtesy of The Bird’s Nest Tumblr.

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