Ai Weiwei Exhibition at Royal Academy of Arts - Provocative Activist in the UK
In the following days, the Royal Academy of Arts in London will be the proud host of the retrospective exhibition of one of China’s most influential artists and definitely one of the most controversial figures in the world of contemporary arts. Announced as the largest exhibit of Ai Weiwei’s work in the UK, the Royal Academy exhibition will encompass a variety of artworks created from 1993 onwards, a year which marks Ai Weiwei’s return to China, after more than a decade spent in the United States. One of the highlights of the event will definitely be the attendance of the artist himself, who missed more than two hundred of his international shows since his passport was taken by the Chinese government way back in 2011.
Ai Weiwei: Never-ending Fight for Freedom of Artistic Expression
Art, life and politics in Ai Weiwei’s works are often inseparable entities. Marked as one of the dissidents whose work is not only monitored by the government, but also the reporters worldwide, Weiwei’s name is appearing in the news headlines daily, whether it’s his selfie with Julian Assange or the protest march with Anish Kapoor. And although Weiwei’s activism and fight for the human rights have gained many supporters and media attention, the exhibit at Royal Academy, with its extensive line of works, is an important reminder that Ai Weiwei is primarily an artist. His artistry reflects on the society and does serve as a powerful political statement, but let us not forget that his oeuvre also has a great aesthetic quality and value on its own.
As mentioned earlier, the exhibition will encompass major works from the past two decades, focusing on the period after his return to China. Firstly, there are his works inspired by the Chinese cultural heritage including controversial Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn photographs and Coloured Vases interventions on the Neolithic urns. Probably one of the centerpieces is Straight, 2008-12, stunning installation which commemorates the lives of the school children, victims of the Sichuan earthquake. The exhibition will also include the latest marble sculptures commentating on the period when the artist was surrounded by the government surveillance cameras. Another interesting installation is the Bicycle Chandelier, a remake of his previous work and a powerful comment on China’s modernization where a symbol of democracy and equality becomes a luxurious product in the changed social context. Keeping his technique close to the ready-made aesthetics, reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp’s work, Weiwei once again shows the power of mundane objects to spark a conversation about the social problems once they are displaced from their original context. The works mentioned are only the slightest glimpse of the extensive survey on display at the Royal Academy through December.
Ai Weiwei Exhibition at Royal Academy of Arts
Back in 2011, Ai Weiwei received his Honorary Royal Academician title and now he is free to attend the opening of his exhibition at the very same institution which honored him. Five years after his successful installation at Tate Modern, Weiwei will return to the UK for the largest institutional survey of his works. Except from the line of artworks created in the last two decades, the exhibition will feature a brand new creations of the artist, including numerous large-scale installations. The exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London will be on view from September 19th to December 13th, 2015.
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Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing, taken in April 2015. Photo © Harry Pearce/Pentagram, 2015
Ai Weiwei – Free Speech Puzzle, 2014. Hand painted porcelain in the Qing dynasty imperial style – 51 x 41 x 0.8 cm – Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio – Image courtesy Ai Weiwei © Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei – I.O.U. Wallpaper, 2011-13. Wallpaper, dimensions variable – Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio – Image courtesy Ai Weiwei © Ai Weiwei
All images courtesy of the Royal Academy of Arts