Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego will stage 24-hour sit-in to support detained Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s downtown location (1100 & 1001 Kettner Blvd.) announced a 24-hour protest to call for the release of detained Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei. Beginning at 11 a.m. on Thursday, May 19 and continuing through 11 a.m. on Friday, May 20, MCASD staff, members, and community leaders will participate in a silent yet symbolic event. Volunteers will occupy two traditionally styled Chinese chairs for one-hour periods. This 24-hour sit-in references Ai Wei Wei's sculpture series, “Marble Chair,” two of which are on view in the museum's exhibition, “Prospect 2011.” These impressive yet haunting marble sculptures were acquired on May 11 by the Museum's International and Contemporary Collectors.

Wei Wei was detained April 3 at the Beijing airport as he attempted to board a flight to Hong Kong. MCASD has stood alongside members of the international art community in voicing its disapproval and encouraging action from members, the community and the government to call for the artist's release, the museum reports.

Hugh Davies, the David C. Copley Director and CEO said he considers the silent protest a way to express the museum's support of the artist, whose Beijing studio museum supporters visited just months before Wei Wei's detention. "As the time of his detention lengthens, we grow more concerned for Ai's welfare and want to make a collective gesture in support of his release," Davies said.

Members of the community are invited to participate by offering an hour of their time to sit in the replica chairs during the 24-hour demonstration. Volunteers can RSVP on Facebook at

or by emailing

with the subject line "Sitting in Solidarity," and will be contacted to confirm a time.

Visitors may observe the silent protest during the museum's open hours, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 19. Participants will continue to occupy the chairs throughout the night after the museum closes; the public can still view the protest since the chairs will be stationed directly behind the glass entry of the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building.

For one week following the initial 24-hour demonstration, the chairs will remain on site and available for people to sit in, either for a minute or an hour. Participants are encouraged to post photos of themselves sitting in the chairs to the museum's Facebook page to serve as a visual petition.

About the chairs …

Ai Wei Wei works in a variety of media, from sculpture and installation to photography and performance. His works revisit and translate well-known Chinese forms to comment on the country's rich history and complicated present. In “Marble Chair,” he carves a familiar yoke-back chair out of a single block of marble. This startling translation and memorializing of a piece of furniture raises questions of history, memory, and modernization. “Marble Chair” suggests that the rush of progress takes its toll not only on the people, but also on the culture that becomes lost among the change. The empty chair evokes the absent figure, an effect made more disturbing due to the artist's recent incarceration by the Chinese government.



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