Munich gallery protest did not end in eviction, Ai Weiwei asserts | News | DW | 14.09.2019
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Munich gallery protest did not end in eviction, Ai Weiwei asserts

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has denied being "thrown out" of a Munich gallery after protesting with staff fearing layoffs. Media had shown Ai debating with Bernhard Spies, commercial director of the Haus der Kunst.

Ai on Saturday rebutted a DW headline that his intervention Friday on behalf of curation staff employed at Munich's Haus der Kunst (House of Art) had culminated in him being evicted, or in other words "thrown out."

That headline verb in German had been used by Germany's DPA news agency and the online version of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. "I would prefer to throw him out," was a quote also attributed to Spies by the tabloid Bild in its coverage Saturday.

"The fact is no one ever threw me out. We left after the end of the protest," Ai wrote on Twitter Saturday, adding that director Spies had "promised no workers will be layer [laid] off" during their tense encounter.

Bild in Saturday's coverage also showed Ai, who has an atelier in Berlin, standing on the gallery's terrace with two gallery employees, including its works council [Betriebsratsvorsitzende] chairperson, Cassandro Schmid.

The gallery, first used to defame artists during Hitler's brutal Nazi regime, then post-war as an American officers' canteen, and now an exhibitor of international art, has in recent times run into financial difficulty.

'Right to control own premises'

Gallery management had asserted that its Hausrecht [right of control over its own premises) had been "grossly disrupted" by Friday's protest that saw Ai joining staff in checking entry tickets of surprised visitors.

But, the management said, it was standing by its promise to conduct its restructuring — initially communicated in May — in a socially compatible manner, retaining "as many jobs as possible" and avoiding losses in earnings.

'Tempers heated'

Ai, who had works featured 10 years ago in the same Munich gallery, had been invited to attend Friday's protest by 48 curators and front desk ticketing staff wearing lapel buttons demanding "No outsourcing,” reported the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Friday.

Ahead of the protest, management had not been informed and a relaxed Ai was spotted later, engaged in a further interview, in Munich's adjacent Hofgarten park, the SZ added.

Friday's verbal confrontation, the SZ noted, had shown that "even if the encounter passed off in an orderly way, tempers are heated" — ahead of negotiations on October 7.

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