Ai Weiwei Pledges Proceeds From New Work to Israeli Human Rights Group B’Tselem

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Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, center, filming a documentary on refugees at Gaza's Rafah crossing with Egypt, May 11, 2016.
Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, center, filming a documentary on refugees at Gaza's Rafah crossing with Egypt, May 11, 2016.Credit: AP / Khalil Hamra

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei launched a series of limited-edition skateboards on Thursday to mark 100 days of the Trump presidency, with part of the proceeds going to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

The project is a collaboration with social initiatives website The Skateroom, which invites artists to create three art-covered, limited editions of skateboards, with the proceeds going to art institutes or nonprofit ventures. Ai chose B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories and the Turkish group Bridging Peoples, which fights racism, ultranationalism and sexism.

“My favorite word is ‘act’. I am partnering with the Skateroom for that very reason,” Ai explained on Skateroom’s website.

The Israeli anti-occupation group has been at the center of a diplomatic spat between Israel and Germany. A meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visiting German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was canceled after the German official refused to cancel a meeting with representatives of the group.

For the last two years, Ai has been working on a documentary called “Human Flow,” which deals with the global refugee problem. He has traveled around the world for the film and was in Israel and the occupied territories last year.

The three limited edition skateboards in Ai Weiwei's White House" collection.Credit: The Skateroom

“During the filming of ‘Human Flow,’ I had the opportunity to speak with individuals from both B’Tselem and Bridging Peoples,” he said on the Skateroom website. “What these two organizations do is very valuable to society, both in fighting against injustice and in helping those that are unfortunate.”

There are 666 skateboards called “The White House” (retailing at $666), and 66 skateboards with a hand-signed certificate for $3,000.

The artwork is from Ai’s “Study of Perspective” series, taken between 1995 and 2003, where he is seen “giving the finger” to various buildings that embody regimes and authorities. Ai says the series is a universal declaration of political opposition.

Last May, Ai told Haaretz about his experience following refugees. “We started on the Greek island of Lesbos, where thousands of Syrian refugees arrive, then via the Balkans we reached Turkey, and from there to Lebanon and Jordan. We interviewed many people – politicians, representatives of human rights organizations, religious figures. In Jordan and Lebanon, we saw a few large camps housing Palestinians, and that made me want to film here as well. As a documentary maker, I have no excuse not to come here. Obviously I’m very curious about Israel and the local culture here.”

Early in 2016, a joint exhibition between Ai and Israeli photographer Miki Kratsman at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art was canceled, reportedly for political reasons. But another Ai exhibition, “Maybe, Maybe Not,” is set to open at the Israel Museum in June.

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