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Prominent Chinese artist visits Vienna

Visitors to Vienna's Belvedere Palace were confronted Wednesday with 1,005 refugees' life jackets drifting in the baroque pond -- courtesy of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

Prominent Chinese artist visits Vienna
Ai Weiwei at the preview of his “Er Xi” installation at Le Bon Marché. Photo: Belvedere, Vienna

The installation, entitled “F. Lotus”, consists of 201 rings each holding five life jackets — retrieved from the Greek island of Lesbos — arranged in the letter “F” and floating like lotus flowers.

Ai, who in February this year attached 14,000 life jackets to the columns of a Berlin concert house, said that the work was his way of addressing the tragedy of Europe's migrant crisis.

“There are over 500,000 life jackets left on (Lesbos) and it looks like a landscape,” he told reporters. “It is something so related to individuals. It could be the last thing you grab when you have to escape.”

The artist went too far for some earlier this year when he recreated the death pose of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler found dead on a Turkish beach in 2015, in a photo shoot for an Indian magazine.

China's most prominent contemporary artist helped design the Bird's Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics, but his works have often fallen foul of China's authorities. In 2011, he was detained for 81 days.

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ART

London Tube gets covered-up versions of Schiele nudes after it deems the originals too racy

As the art world plans to celebrate the centenary of Austrian expressionist painter Egon Schiele's death, some of his nudes have been dubbed too racy to show in their full glory, not least in the London underground.

London Tube gets covered-up versions of Schiele nudes after it deems the originals too racy
Photo: Christian Lendl/Vienna Tourist Board/AFP
Austrian museums will next year host a series of exhibitions and events to mark the centenary of his passing but time has apparently not dimmed some of the prudish attitudes prevalent in his lifetime regarding his rawest works, Vienna Tourist Board director Norbert Kettner told AFP.
   
Two of his works — “Seated Male Nude (Self-Portrait),” from 1910, and his 1914 work “Girl With Orange Stockings,” appear with their genitals covered over after Transport for London found the uncensored originals beyond the pale.
 
Advertising hoardings in Germany have similarly covered the offending parts, even though the works were deliberately selected as “we wanted to raise a discussion and the theme of nudity seemed pertinent,” Kettner told AFP.
 
“The campaign was ready but when we came up with the first visuals we had several reactions of 'that won't do; regulations won't allow us to show genitalia,'” he explained after the London Tube and a German airport both complained.
 
“We had the green light for a very large format and, the day before they went up, agreement was withdrawn as an ethics committee felt (full nude versions) wouldn't be acceptable for an airport public” or patrons of London's underground trains.
 
The Viennese tourist office quickly revamped the pictures, covering up the offending organs and adding on the blotted out section the slogan, “SORRY, 100 years old but still too daring today.”
 
They have also added the hashtag #ToArtItsFreedom in London – a play on the “To every age its art. To every art its freedom” inscribed on the entrance of the Vienna Secession building housing the union of Austrian artists movement.
 
Kettner revealed that a Viennese display did not share the artistic-sexual qualms of the British or the Germans and had approved a “non-censored” version.
 
The prolific Schiele, born in 1890 and who died of Spanish flu aged 28, was not always popular in his homeland where some, notably in conservative circles, took a dim view of his vision of tortured eroticism.
 
Nonetheless, a retrospective of his work will see a number of exhibitions highlight his talents as well as those of his first mentor and Secession co-founder Gustav Klimt.