Going Gangnam Style in Support of Ai Weiwei

In late October, acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei and friends performed a parody of the “Gangnam Style” video by the South Korean rapper PSY.

The video, which you can watch above, shows Ai dancing with colleagues at his Beijing studio. He called the video “Grass-Mud Horse Style,” which refers to a fictional creature used to symbolize anti-censorship in China and has been an ongoing theme in his work. Since 2009, Ai has become known for his political activism and use of the internet and social media as a platform to address social and political issues. This activity resulted in his detention in 2011 for 81 days by Chinese authorities. Most recently, he was unable to attend the opening of his retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden because his passport is being held by authorities. Ai produced this video as a reminder that freedom of speech and creative expression should be allowed to all.

Like PSY’s version, Ai’s video quickly went viral, but was removed from Chinese websites. In response, artist Anish Kapoor invited hundreds of friends to his London studio to create their own video as a sign of support. He also asked individuals and institutions around the globe to participate. The resulting video was released late last week with clips from many museums including ours. Anish Kapoor explained in the press release: “Our film aims to make a serious point about freedom of speech and freedom of expression. It is our hope that this gesture of support for Ai Weiwei and all prisoners of conscience will be wide-ranging and will help to emphasize how important these freedoms are to us all.”

The short clip in Kapoor’s video featuring the Brooklyn Museum is part of a full version we produced, which includes a cameo from our Director, Arnold Lehman, and our staff.

Ai Weiwei’s retrospective, Ai Weiwei: According to What?, is on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden until February 24, 2013, before it travels to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Miami Art Museum. We’ll be the final venue of the North American tour; the exhibition will open here in April 2014.