Why you should see Ai Weiwei’s exhibition

Before it closes on 13 December 2015.

With less than three weeks to go, it feels like I should be consumed by Christmas right now. I’m slowly getting there and expect by the end of this week I’ll be singing Christmas songs and feeling jolly. But before I get completely lost in the festivities (I have a few posts planned!), lose all perspective (the missing cellotape or scissors will no doubt at some point signify the end of the world), I wanted to share a post about Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.

The exhibition has been open for a few weeks so you may have read and heard about it already. If not, all you really need to know at this point in the post is that Ai Weiwei is considered a major Chinese artist, known as much for his art as his outspoken political views against the Chinese Government. I don’t think you need to have a particular view on the political aspects of the exhibition to enjoy it, so here’s why I think you should visit his exhibition before it closes.

It has an immediate impact. Each piece tells a story and right from the start it’s easy to see how Ai wants you to react. From the enormous piece illustrating the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 that left 90,000 people dead and 11 million people homeless, to the surveillance camera that watched his every move under his arrest in 2009, it’s not difficult to see the emotions Ai is looking to share and provoke.

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The amazing craftsmanship. When I think about it, it was actually really refreshing to see installations instead of paintings or photographs as it sort of felt like I could take a good look at it from several angles and inspect the incredible craftsmanship that went into the pieces.

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It’s clever. If it has an immediate impact it’s obviously pretty clever, but there were some pieces I just thought “Wow, now that is clever”. This was one of them.

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It was designed so that if you pulled the two short sides together to form a circle the outline in the centre would form a map of China.

It’s beautiful. I’d only seen the Bicycle Chandelier on Instagram from this angle.

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So when I saw the sparkling crystals holding together rose gold bicycle frames I couldn’t believe just how spectacular it was.

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It pieces together a powerful story. There’s an obvious conflict in Ai’s work between a love for his country and its people, and a hate for its government and the limitations it imposes. Old trees from the mountains of southern China link to the country’s past, whilst modern materials demonstrate particular events in Ai’s life. Once I’d seen the entire exhibition I left feeling like I had a better understanding of some of the struggles experienced within China.

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Have you seen the exhibition? If not, have I convinced you to see it?

You can find more information about the exhibition and book tickets here.

For the first time ever, the Royal Academy is going to be open for 56 hours over the exhibition’s final weekend, opening at 10am on Friday 11 December and closing at 6pm on Sunday 13 December. So if you want a bit of culture instead of Christmas this weekend, grab a ticket now!

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4 Comments

  1. December 8, 2015 / 1:17 pm

    I agree – such an incredible exhibition! I was blown away by the earthquake piece in particular.

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      December 8, 2015 / 2:32 pm

      Yeh, the scale of it was much harder to grasp via the news channels at the time. It’s one of those exhibitions when you realise how lucky we are to have the chance to see it!

  2. December 9, 2015 / 2:26 pm

    I totally agree -I think one of the best exhibitions I’ve EVER been to. the detail on some of the pieces (including the 6 prison cell models) was simply amazing. Considering going again this weekend even though I’ve been already…

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      December 9, 2015 / 2:30 pm

      I’ve always wondered what you might notice a 2nd time at an exhibition. It’s a bit like re-reading a favourite book!