Ai WeiWei – Royal Academy

Being such an influential artist, how could I resist being in London and not visiting the latest Ai WeiWei show at the Royal Academy. The costly entry fee prepared me for something spectacular.

(Sales, S. 2015)

I anticipated seeing some well known works for the first time (captured above) and I hoped to see works I had never seen. What I’ve always admired about Ai’s work are the social and cultural veins that run through it, highlighting the oppressive nature of the Chinese Government. Potentially I had been so awed by the stand alone power of his works, that I hadn’t truly acknowledged what would happen when gathered under one roof. Sadly, by the end of 90 mins viewing,  empathy, shock, anger and sadness was replaced with numbness. My head and heart was rendered unable to respond to any more of China’s atrocities. The work was so explicitly labeled that I could make no other interpretations than the ones prescribed on the gallery walls.

But what did work? What was useful for the research I am undertaking?

As documented above, the bright ceramic vases were a welcomed change in tone. Questioning the value of an object, whether worth more as a neolithic vase or as a defaced vase by the artist. How much does provenance and form add value?

I was extremely impressed and inspired by range of materials used. The ceramic brickwork, once Ai’s studio – now demolished by the Chinese Government – tells a story of China and of the present day fight Ai faces.

Many of the works were about how the Chinese Government’s movement to monitor and even detain Ai over recent years. With these artworks Ai has written himself into China’s history.

 

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