Ai Weiwei took a selfie with a far-right German politician, and defended the act after criticism mounted.
Alice Weidel, a member of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party in German parliament, went up to Ai at a restaurant in Berlin, identified herself as a government figure, and asked if she could take a selfie. Ai agreed, and Weidel posted the resulting snapshot to Twitter last week, with a caption reading, “#AiWeiwei is in the capital!!!! I almost did not dare ask him for a selfie ;-).” Immediately, fans began to ask why Ai, who is a vocal activist on behalf of refugees around the world, publicly appeared with a politician who has called immigrants “illiterate.” Weidel’s AfD party is fiercely right wing, and other members have called a Holocaust memorial a “monument of shame” and deemed work in Documenta 14 that calls for more open borders “ideologically polarizing, deformed art.”
But in a statement to Frieze, Ai said Weidel fully explained who she was when she approached him in the Berlin restaurant, and even then he agreed to take a selfie. “I don’t believe that differences in political views or values between people should act as a barrier in communication,” he said in the statement. He added that he applauded Weidel’s forthrightness in just coming up to him in a restaurant, saying she “shows an openness to differences in political agendas.”