The other week I was invited to see the latest exhibition at The Royal Academy, Ai Weiwei. Known for being outspoken, his pieces respond to China’s suppression of human rights and freedom of speech. Before experiencing the work, I heard about the experiences which helped to shape it and was absolutely fascinated.
The massive rooms, although very busy, were almost silent. It’s hard to describe really; it was very atmospheric.
Straight is an installation comprising of 90 tonnes of steel rods recovered from the rubble of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. Each rod was collected and straightened by hand over 5 years, with the names of the earthquakes victims displayed on the surrounding walls. It’s these details that make Ai Weiwei’s work emotional and powerful.
And the details continue throughout the rest of the exhibition, from the porcelain crab trying to escape (above) and a field of grass carved from marble…
… to the middle finger wallpaper, the spot the difference Taschen books (Ai Weiwei is featured in the English version of a book on contemporary art, but is missing from the Chinese version of the book) and a chandelier made from bicycles.
The exhibition is so powerful and I’ve only shown a snippet here. I 100% recommend that you visit and spend an hour or two exploring and learning about Ai Weiwei’s world. But as I mentioned, it’s a really popular exhibition so definitely book before you visit to avoid disappointment.
Are you planning to see Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy? Or maybe you’ve already been – what were your highlights?