Ai Weiwei’s Detention Casts Pall on Harvard Graduate School of Design, Atlantic City Blackjack Community

Detained Chinese artist

Ai Weiwei was represented by an empty chair

during a talk at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, the Boston Globe’s culture blog reported. Harvard is currently displaying an Ai installation of cubic steel frames covered with children’s backpacks, part of his series of works addressing the mass deaths of students when substandard school buildings collapsed during the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan—a subject that put Ai into his most direct conflict with Chinese authorities.

So while two other artists who have installations at Harvard took part in a panel discussion. they were joined onstage by the unoccupied chair:

At intervals throughout the talk, different students placed a heavy coat on the chair, removed it, replaced it, and removed it again. The panelists were clearly thrown by the interruption.

Meanwhile, outside the art world, the New York Times

relays a report

from the website

that Ai’s arrest has caused consternation among people who knew him as a “blackjack guru” in Atlantic City when he lived in New York in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. “He is the best,” the article quotes a blackjack player identified as “Vinnie,” who also goes by “Snake Eyes,” as saying. Writer Nick Meisher describes the artist’s less well-known American accomplishments;

[E]very few days a full stretch limo picked him up for the drive to the casino. Since he was a rated blackjack card games player, he had full ‘comps’ at practically every casino in Atlantic City: with free suites, limos, dinners and every other perk at his disposal.