The artist who has filled the Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern with millions of hand-crafted porcelain seeds blamed a "political issue" after it emerged that Chinese officials have ordered the demolition of his Shanghai studio, which he designed himself.
ARTKABINETT social network of fine art collectors reported some of our political suspicions about a recent Bristish ban of walking on his seed installation at the Tate museum. Apparently, the museum official claimed that the seeds "generated dust".
Ai Weiwei, who also designed the 2008 Beijing Olympic stadium, said officials had told him the Shanghai government was frustrated at his human rights campaigning.
The building was to have formed part of a new cultural area, with Ai using it as a studio and to teach architecture courses. But now Ai has been accused of erecting the structure without the necessary planning permission and a demolition notice has been ordered.
Ai said the government informed him two months ago that the newly completed studio would be knocked down because it was illegal.
"I was very surprised because the whole process was under government supervision and they were very enthusiastic in pushing it," he said.
"Two years ago quite a high official [from Shanghai] came to my studio to ask me to build a studio in this newly developed cultural district in an agricultural area.
I told him I wouldn't do it because I had no faith in government, but he somehow convinced me, saying he had come to Beijing from Shanghai, and so I said OK.
"Half a dozen artists were invited to build studios there because they wanted a cultural area. I'm the only one singled out to have my studio destroyed."
The official demolition notice said Ai, who also has a studio in Beijing, where he is based, had not applied in advance for a project planning licence, but the artist says authorities told him they had arranged the necessary papers.
Asked why the Shanghai authorities' stance had changed, Ai said: "We asked the same question. I can't tell. All the people we asked in government said 'You should know.'
"They said they are sorry and can pay back what has been put into the project, but the building has to be destroyed.
"It's not only money; architecture, after it has been built, is not just bricks and concrete. It has become a work with its own meaning."
Ai has had something of a turbulent relationship with authorities in China ever since the age of 10, when his family was exiled to a labour camp, after his father, Ai Qing – China's leading poet – was accused of being a dissident. He lived in the US for more than a decade before returning to China in 1993 when his father fell ill.
While he was exhibiting in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, in August last year, he was beaten about the head by police who raided his hotel, and suffered a haemorrhage a month later as a result of the blow.
Ai's "installation" in the province was a public list of more than 5,000 children killed by a 2008 earthquake (shown here).
This year he made a documentary on the story of Feng Zhengzu, the Chinese human rights activist who spent more than three months living in Narita airport, in Tokyo, after being denied re-entry to China eight times following a trip to see his sister in Japan.
Ai said officials had told him the Shanghai government was "frustrated" about documentaries he had made. on sensitive incidents in the city.
"It's definitely some kind of political issue. It's just so weird. Nobody can explain the situation and even high officials who invited me only say 'Sorry, we can't help' or 'We tried, but it's impossible'." The final demolition order – which would give him 20 days to move out – could arrive any day, Ai said, but in the meantime he is planning to hold a farewell party at the studio on Sunday "to celebrate its life and death".
Guests will be treated to hundreds of river crabs – a much-loved Shanghai delicacy, but importantly a delicacy whose name is a homonym for "harmony". The term is often used by the government to assert its own successes in the country, but has been adopted by critics, who now use it to take a swipe at the regime.
"Once I said it would be destroyed, I had hundreds of supporters who wanted to see it.
I said anyone who wanted to have a party could be my guest and several hundred people want to come," Ai said."Hopefully it will be a harmonious party but I don't know how the local government will react."
The sunflower seeds exhibition (top left) at the Tate was enthusiastically received by critics, but ran into controversy when visitors were barred from walking on them because of the ceramic dust thrown up, although this was never reported as a problem by the hundreds of spectators who attended the show..