Never one to shy away from using his art as a tool for political activism, one of the most prominent contemporary artists today is withdrawing his highly lauded exhibition in Copehagen, Denmark after the passage of a controversial bill that many believe to be discriminatory towards refugees. On Wednesday, protesting the asylum seeker law, Ai Weiwei canceled his Danish show at Faurschou Foundation Copenhagen that was slated to go on until mid-April.
The new law, approved in parliament the day before, allows authorities to seize cash and assets worth more than 10,000 Danish kroner (around $1,453) from asylum seekers to help cover the expenses of their stay in Denmark.
Ai weighed in on his decision from Lesbos, Greece, where he is currently doing research on Europe's refugee crisis.
"My moments with refugees in the past months have been intense. I see thousands come daily, children, babies, pregnant women, old ladies, a young boy with one arm," he told The Guardian. "They come with nothing — barefoot, in such cold, they have to walk across the rocky beach. Then you have this news; it made me feel very angry.
"The way I can protest is that I can withdraw my works from that country. It is very simple, very symbolic — I cannot co-exist, I cannot stand in front of these people, and see these policies. It is a personal act, very simple; an artist trying not just to watch events but to act, and I made this decision spontaneously."
Ai posted on Instagram that gallery owner Jens Faurschou supported his decision to shut down his exhibition.
"When I woke up today I did not expect to get that call, but I was not surprised by his [Ai's] reaction," Faurschou told The Guardian.
The government's decision sparked outrage in the socially liberal European nation, but it reflects a growing backlash in Europe as governments struggle to deal with the flood of incoming refugees.
Cover image via Carl Court / Getty Images.