A leading international art fair is to display a provocative work by detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in Hong Kong in a show of solidarity with the outspoken dissident amid a government crackdown.
Director Magnus Renfrew said the organizers of ART HK shared the concerns of the international community over Ai’s fate, and called for "due process" of the law to be upheld in his case, which has sparked an international outcry.
"Ai Weiwei’s works have been greatly admired," he said.
The fair, which started on Thursday, is to display Ai’s 2007 sculpture "Marble Arm," which depicts an outstretched arm and hand — with its middle finger raised.
The artist was taken into custody in Beijing last month during the government’s biggest crackdown on dissidents and activists in years, with authorities later saying he was suspected of unspecified "economic crimes".
The US and European Union have called for Ai’s release, but Beijing has rejected such calls, denouncing them as interfering and inappropriate.
"Marble Arm" was brought to the fair by Switzerland-based Galerie Urs Meile, which also run a gallery in Beijing.
"By presenting his work, we believe his situation will be discussed," the gallery’s assistant Rene Meile told AFP.
Chinese police alleged last week that a firm controlled by Ai had evaded taxes, in a move that appeared to be aimed at building their case against the detained artist.
Hong Kong maintains semi-autonomous status from China and enjoys civil liberties not seen on the mainland. Artists and campaigners have staged a series of protests there calling for Ai’s release.
ART HK, which is now in its fourth year, will see a record 260 galleries from 38 countries taking part in the four-day fair. It is expected to draw at least 45,000 visitors to see work by over 1,000 artists.
The city, which has become the world’s third-biggest auction hub behind London and New York, has ambitions to establish itself as a centre for art in Asia.
The fair will also show new works by cutting-edge artist Barnaby Furnas and an acclaimed anamorphic projection by South African artist William Kentridge.
Organizers said they expect to see tens of millions of dollars in sales over the four days, but could not provide a forecast for the private transactions.
Several auctioneers, including Christie’s and Sotheby’s, are holding Hong Kong art sales expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming week.