There's really no way I am going to get a chance to talk to Mr. Hu Jintao, the head of the People's Republic of China, who arrives in Chicago on Thursday and Friday. So in light of that reality I thought that I would post some questions here on the Chicago Art Blog that I would ask him if given the chance. 1) I feel sure that Mr. Hu Jintao is aware of Ai Weiwei, one of China's most important artists and I would say China's best artist. Over the years Mr. Ai's blogs, twitter feeds and other internet connections have been shut down by the Chinese government. In November, Mr. Ai was placed on house arrest by the government. Mere days ago, on January 11th, the Chinese authorities demolished Mr. Ai's studio in Shanghai, a studio that the government authorities requested he build in the first place.
I would like to ask Mr. Hu Jintao why the Chinese government seems to fear a single artist, Mr. Ai Weiwei? What is the threat that Ai poses to the Chinese government that he should be persecuted within his homeland in this way?
2) No one wants stolen artwork to fuel an international black market, we can all agree on that. However while a maze of laws, litigation and bureaucracy will determine if and how certain Chinese artifacts in the world's museums are to be returned, if at all, it seems obviously clear that China should take measures to stem its internal black market in looted antiquities. This issue is raised most clearly by James Cuno in his book Who Owns Antiquity?.
Since we know about the international efforts to recoup Chinese art, perhaps Mr. Hu would like to comment on the measures he has taken to insure that archaeological sites in China are secured and that the internal black market is quelled?
3) On a related note, the Chinese government is so set on seeing treasures aboard returned, I'd like to know a bit more about the treasures already within the country. The Three Gorges Dam will no doubt provide needed electricity to many people, but what was done to preserve the archaeological sites in the flood zone? Some were moved to another location, but that destroys the integrity of the original site. Likewise, the successful Beijing Olympics required the construction of many significant buildings, including Ai Weiwei's stunning Beijing National Stadium (or the "Bird's Nest"), but these also destroyed or covered up equally significant archaeological sites. As an anonymous Chinese archaeologist said to the China Daily, "Archaeologists in Beijing are following bulldozers."