Ai Weiwei finds peace in Portugal: ‘I could throw away all my art and not feel much’

Steve Rose in The Guardian:

It is a warm, clear spring morning and Ai Weiwei is giving me a tour of the huge new studio he is building about an hour’s drive from Lisbon. There is not another house in sight, just the flat green landscape of the Alentejo, and a big blue sky dotted with darting swallows. The studio, explains the artist, is a replica of his old one in Shanghai, which was finished in 2011 only to be almost immediately demolished by the Chinese authorities: officially, because it contravened planning regulations; unofficially, because of Ai’s outspoken criticism of the government. Months later, the artist was imprisoned for three months then placed under house arrest. When his passport was returned in 2015, he left the country and has not returned since.

“We live in a constantly changing landscape,” says Ai. His has certainly changed more than most people’s. After China, he set up in Berlin but left under a cloud, saying: “Nazism perfectly exists in German daily life today.” He moved on to the UK, where he has had run-ins with immigration authorities. On his first visit, he was initially granted a visa for just 20 days on account of his “criminal conviction” in China.

More here.