On Friday, May 23, Ai Weiwei had three of his works pulled out of Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA). This happened during the opening of the Hans van Dijk retrospective show, co-organized by UCCA (Beijing) and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art.
Zhao Zhao (a former assistant of Ai Weiwei and a rising artist in his own right) was seen removing works with others.
“Yesterday, UCCA Beijing opened an exhibition in memory of my long-time friend and collaborator Dai Han Zhi [ed: this is the Chinese version of Hans van Dijk]. In their public newsletter for the exhibition, they intentionally erased my name and changed the facts regarding our historical collaboration in the foundation of Chinese contemporary art throughout the 1990s. Therefore, to honor the memory of my dear friend, I pulled my work out of the exhibit in defiance of UCCA and the false portrayal of Chinese contemporary art.” (Ai Weiwei posted an image of this text in English. In Chinese, he posted the following, basically a similar tweet: “北京尤伦斯当代艺术中心回顾纪念我的友人、合作者戴汉志的展览中，篡改当代艺术历史史实，再次删除我作为汉志的朋友、合作者的名字。我将参展作品撤出，以表示对汉志的永久怀念，和对中国当代艺术怪象之鄙视。”)
Ai Weiwei appears to be referring specifically to the email newsletter [link], which omitted to mention his name, possibly due to fears of censorship (especially considering how Ai Weiwei’s name was excised from the CCAA exhibition at the Power Station of Art in Shanghai). However, at the exhibition itself, his name is labeled on the captions to his works as well as the relevant wall texts, while a PDF on the UCCA website made no mention of any artists (link to PDF).
The Hans van Dijk show is a highly anticipated show of the season, as it looks back on the legacy of Hans van Dijk, a tireless archivist, curator, and champion of contemporary Chinese artists from the late 1980s up to his death in 2002. He co-curated the seminal 1993 exhibition “China Avant-Garde” in Berlin, the first major show of Chinese contemporary art in Europe, and founded the New Amsterdam Art Consultancy (NAAC), which introduced many Chinese artists to Western curators, journalists, collectors. In the late 1990s, Hans van Dijk founded the China Art Archives and Warehouse (CAAW), an experimental gallery and exhibition space, with the collector Frank Uytterhaegen and the artist Ai Weiwei.
When reached, UCCA made the following statement: “UCCA was honored to present three works by the artist Ai Weiwei as part of our current exhibition “Hans van Dijk: 5000 Names”. [...] We are saddened by Ai Weiwei’s decision to remove his works—including the first piece he ever exhibited in Europe, as part of an exhibition curated by Hans in 1993—from the exhibition. Fortunately, visitors to the exhibition will still be able to understand Ai Weiwei’s close collaboration with Hans van Dijk through numerous archival and didactic materials which firmly recount his key place in this important history.”