Ai Weiwei Accepts Position at Berlin University, When He’ll Arrive Is Anyone’s Guess

When the artist Ai Weiwei was detained by Chinese authorities at the Beijing airport in early April his destination was Hong Kong, but it was believed that he would soon be leaving there and heading toward starting anew in Berlin. He even said as much himself, just five days before the arrest that would find him locked away from the world for three months. So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that Weiwei has accepted a teaching role at the Berlin University of the Arts, which had offered him a professorship shortly after his detainment. Certainly nice that they’ve kept the slot open for him and he’s eager to take it on, but doesn’t it almost sounds like the whole belabored and painful process is starting all over again? Granted, this time the artist has tax evasion charges to deal with, as well as being held on a tight leash when it comes to talking to the media, so perhaps he’ll skip heading to the airport this time and just wait out the Chinese government to allow him to travel again. Meanwhile, Weiwei has been given a hearing with the tax agency who claims his company owes nearly $2 million in back taxes and fines (and, as such, was the whole reason for his detainment), which seems like it must be a good, if minor win for the artist. While those conversations start up, those in Berlin will be waiting and seeing what happens. As a roughly translated copy of the university’s statement about Weiwei joining them says, “When is a departure from China will be possible, remains uncertain.”