China’s Ai Weiwei pays tribute to Pablo Neruda in Chile painting
A massive painting by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei dedicated to Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda was unveiled on Saturday in Valparaiso, the Chilean port where the poet lived.
Entitled A Pablo (To Pablo), the huge 900-square-metre painting, is the artist’s first for Latin America as a part of the show Of Bridges & Borders.
It shows dark-toned images of the Senkaku Islands, a small East China Sea archipelago, known as the Diaoyus in Chinese, which are at the centre of a bitter territorial dispute between China and Japan.
Chinese marine surveillance vessels regularly patrol what Beijing says are its waters around the islands, prompting accusations of territorial incursions by Tokyo.
On the painting – hung on the facade of what was a local jail, and is now a cultural centre – is a verse of the poem Cabo de Chile by his father, Ai Qing, who dedicated the poem to his friend Neruda.
Ai, 55, has emerged as a fierce critic of the government in Beijing, often through his prolific use of the internet and involvement in sensitive social campaigns.
He was detained for 81 days in 2011 during a roundup of activists at the time of the Arab Spring popular uprisings, and on his release he was accused of tax evasion and barred from leaving the country for one year.
He is known for tallying the number of schoolchildren killed in a 2008 earthquake, a taboo subject because many schools collapsed while other buildings did not, fuelling suspicion of corruption.
In January he released a 102-minute film about a villager whose fatal crushing by a truck sparked outrage from those who suspected he was killed for campaigning over land seizures, a widespread grievance in China.
Last year Ai produced a version of the widely imitated Gangnam Style music video in which he pulled out a pair of handcuffs, symbolising the authorities’ efforts to silence him. The video was soon censored online.