The artist, architect and activist, who helped conceive Beijing’s iconic “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium, has been among the sharpest critics of China’s regime, making him a target for authorities. Chinese police beat him so severely in 2009 that he later had emergency brain surgery during a stay in Munich to relieve a haematoma on the side of his skull.
But now preparations are underway for what daily Berliner Zeitung called a “partial move” with his team to the German capital’s Schöneweide district, where he has purchased a studio.
“I want to be in the position to do my daily work, art and exhibitions from Berlin too,” Ai told the paper. “The preparations have been going on for three months, but because creating the necessary infrastructure isn’t that easy in Germany, we still need some time before we can get started.”
But the 53-year-old said he did not view the move as a flight because he would still maintain a studio in Beijing. Still, his work as an online activist for young Chinese has meant increasing pressure on Ai and his employees.
Widely considered one of China’s most influential contemporary artists, Ai has compiled the names of more than 5,000 school children killed in the Sichuan earthquake of May 2008 in his own investigation of alleged building corruption.
The situation culminated in house arrest in November 2010 and his subsequent search for alternative situations, the paper said.
In January, Chinese authorities razed his newly constructed studio in Shanghai. In February they hindered the first large exhibition of his work in the country.
The decision was “not a voluntary choice,” he said. “I am simply at a loss as to how I can go on working here.”
Ai has long travelled between China and Europe for his work, and lived in New York City in the 1980s.
“Due to the current situation, I should probably increase my presence in Europe,” he said.