Fallen in Kassel in 2007.
  • Fallen in Kassel in 2007.
Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was beaten until he needed surgery for cerebral hemorrhage during a 2009 detention by the Chinese government, was arrested on Sunday while trying to board a plane. He hasn't been seen since.

There have been two very good accounts of who he is and what he makes—one by Holland Cotter of the New York Times, who won the Pulitzer for his writings on Chinese contemporary art, and the other by Jonathan Jones of the Guardian, who focuses on Ai's giant floor of ceramic sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern through early next month. (Ai's installation of Chinese zodiac heads—referring to a set that were stolen from China by the West—will go ahead in New York next month.)

What is Ai going through right now? I remember the salvaged Chinese doors he tried to keep upright in Kassel, Germany, in 2007. Kassel is a fallen East German town. The doors collapsed, too, in a windstorm. That was during Documenta, an international exhibition. Ai scattered Chinese chairs all around the show. People rested in them, maybe considering the elusiveness of the presence of China in the show.

This morning, this column eerily appeared in a Chinese newspaper.