Entertainment & Arts

Ai Weiwei backs digital arts site The Space

Ai Weiwei Image copyright The Space
Image caption Ai Weiwei sent a video message from from his studio in Beijing

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is helping to launch a website dedicated to digital art.

The £8.6m project - called The Space - will commission and showcase new art for audiences around the world.

Ai has given the names of victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China to a 24-hour launch event taking place at London's Tate Modern this weekend.

He hopes the names will be used to create "a meaningful piece of digital art".

Ai compiled the list of names of 5,196 student victims via his blog after accusations that shoddy construction work had caused the collapse of thousands of classrooms during the quake.

The dissident artist has made a number of artworks about Sichuan, including Nian ("Remembrance"), a sound installation of the students' names being recited by 3,444 individuals rallied from a Twitter campaign.

The launch event for The Space at Tate Modern featured a video message from Ai from his studio in Beijing.

"It gives another opportunity and a platform for artists or somebody like me to work with. I believe many, many young people and students will love it," he said.

The Space - which was set up by the Arts Council and BBC - will feature some 50 new art commissions a year.

Speaking on Friday, launch director Ruth Mackenzie said that not every commission was expected to be a success.

But she hoped that potential "Picassos or Eisensteins" would submit ideas to The Space for a paid commission.

Image copyright Ai Weiwei
Image caption Olafur Eliasson and Ai Weiwei's digital art work Moon is on show at Tate Modern this weekend

"[Visitors] might come and have a have good laugh because it didn't work out, or you might come and see history and see the invention of an entirely new art form," she said.

The launch weekend features a "hackathon" in the Tate's Turbine Hall with around 150 artists creating digital artworks from scratch over a 24-hour period.

Ai Weiwei and Olafur Eliasson's interactive digital art work Moon has been loaned to Tate Modern for the event. It is the first time it has been displayed in a UK Gallery.

Alex Graham, who chairs The Space - which originally launched as a pilot in 2012 - described the project as "a gallery without walls".

He admitted the original Space had been a "learning curve for everyone".

"We've spent a long time evaluating what did and what didn't work - and we'd be the first to say quite a lot didn't."

He said "ambitious targets" had been set for the re-launched site, reaching 10 million readers over three years -with 20% of them aged 18-25 - and 20% from outside the UK.

The 2012 pilot had more than 1.5 million visits, an average of 40,000 per week.

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