“Ai Weiwei and his many supporters around the world are thrilled at the news that his passport has been returned after 600 days”, Ossian Ward from Lisson Gallery, which represents Ai Weiwei, told artnet News in an email.
Ai on Wednesday posted a photo of himself on Instagram holding a Chinese passport with the caption, “Today, I got my passport”.
Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is free to travel again after authorities returned his passport after more than four years.
Police didn’t give Ai “any further circumstances or warnings” for the return of his passport, he stated, including that it was “very relaxed”.
Ai is China’s best known contemporary artist overseas, but authorities have denied him a passport since 2011 in an apparent attempt to limit his worldwide influence.
Four years ago, Chinese authorities had seized Ai’s passport and banned him from leaving the country while he was on his way to Hong Kong.
He was later given a 15 million yuan (£1.5m) fine for evading taxes, although the artist maintains the charges were politically motivated in retaliation for his criticism of the Chinese government.
Ai said that he was unlikely to attend a major exhibition of his works at the Royal Academy of Arts in London that’s due to begin in September as it’s “too early”. “We are delighted to announce that he will be joining us as we finalize the installation of his exhibition”. He led a campaign to investigate government corruption in wake of the 2008 Sichuan natural disaster, when shoddy school construction led to more than 5,000 student deaths.
Ai said he is legally allowed to travel outside China, but that will depend on whether other countries issue him visas.