Saturday, May 14, 2011

Daily Art Nag for May 14, 2011: Sit in Solidarity

For Immediate Release

Leah Masterson
, Communications Associate, 858.454.3541 x119
Rebecca Handelsman, Senior Communications and Marketing Manager, 858.454.3541 x116

24-Hour Sit-In Inspired by Ai Weiwei's Marble Chairs Featured in Current Exhibition

San Diego, CA- The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego announces a 24-hour protest to call for the release of detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. On Thursday, May 19, a broad roster of MCASD staff, members, and community leaders will participate in a silent yet symbolic event.    

Beginning at 11 AM on Thursday, May 19 and continuing through 11 AM on Friday, May 20, volunteer participants will occupy two traditionally styled Chinese chairs for one-hour periods. This 24-hour sit-in references Ai Weiwei's sculpture series, Marble Chair, two of which are currently 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.

Internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei 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.

Hugh Davies, the David C. Copley Director and CEO considers the silent protest a way to express the Museum's support of the artist, whose Beijing studio Museum supporters visited just months before Ai'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," said Davies. 

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, which are 11am to 7pm 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.


Ai Weiwei 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. 

On Wednesday, May 11, MCASD's International Collectors and Contemporary Collectors voted to purchase new works for the Museum's collection, including two examples of Ai Weiwei's Marble Chair (2010). The artist's continuing incarceration made this year's acquisition particularly poignant. Members of the International Collectors were among the last groups to visit Ai Weiwei's Beijing studio during a collecting trip in November 2010.

Founded in 1941, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is the preeminent contemporary visual arts institution in San Diego County. The Museum's collection includes more than 4,000 works of art created since 1950. In addition to presenting exhibitions by international contemporary artists, the Museum serves thousands of children and adults annually at its varied education programs, and offers a rich program of film, performance, and lectures. MCASD is a private, nonprofit organization, with 501c3 tax-exempt status; it is supported by generous contributions and grants from MCASD Members and other individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies. Hugh M. Davies is The David C. Copley Director and CEO at MCASD. Institutional support for MCASD is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.

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