Dissident artist Ai Weiwei on Thursday said that challenging the authorities is one of the main purposes of art, as he rejected a pro-Beijing lawmaker's claim that his work subverts the state.
Eunice Yung, from the New People's Party, had singled out Ai on Wednesday, as she raised concerns that museum exhibitions in Hong Kong could violate the national security law by "spreading hatred against China".
Yung said one of the artist's pieces, showing him holding up his middle finger to Tiananmen Square, clearly crosses a line, and should be not be shown in Hong Kong.
"If you point your middle finger towards Tiananmen Square, it means you want to show your anger against it, or you want to subvert the government with your artwork," she told RTHK.
But Ai dismissed Yung's claim.
“All artworks, if they are of value, raise questions and challenges. Challenging authority is one of the core values of art,” Ai told RTHK on Thursday.
“If she thinks artworks are just ornaments, then I’d say she doesn’t understand art,” he said.
The artwork that apparently upset Yung, Study in Perspective: Tian'anmen, is one of around 1,500 works donated by former Swiss Ambassador to China and art collector Uli Sigg to the city’s M+ Museum, which is expected to open later this year.
Ai said if his works cannot be exhibited in the museum, this would be a signal that Hong Kong is moving further away from universal values and is becoming part of authoritarianism.
During Wednesday’s Legco session, Yung asked Chief Executive Carrie Lam whether she would assign any departments to vet museum exhibitions to make sure they are in line with national security and the Basic Law.
Lam replied that the authorities are on "full alert" to make sure museum exhibitions don't undermine national security.
Art is about challenging authority: Ai Weiwei
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