First gallery stop – Ai Weiwei at the RA

 I had no preconceived ideas about Ai Weiwei, I’d read about him in the press but not seen any of his art before.

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Reconstructed trees at the entrance to the RA.

The RA website says
Tree has been likened to the modern Chinese nation, where ethnically diverse peoples have been brought together to form ‘One China’, a state-sponsored policy aimed at protecting and promoting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

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Coloured Vases

“Twelve Han and four Neolithic vases with industrial paint.” 

These I really did like, repurposing old to make the new.

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Ai Weiwei’s poignant response to the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. Poorly built schools in the Sichuan province – held up by steel rods which twisted and mangled in the quake – were devastated, leaving thousands of students dead. These rods (which Ai had labourers straighten by hand) make up the 90-ton floor-based sculpture, that is laid out in broken undulations recalling fault lines

The panels on the walls list the names and information of the thousands of children who died in this earthquake, disproportional to the general population.  
Possibly as a result of poor construction techniques and materials due to management corruption.

I was reminded of the lists of War dead at the Thiepval Memorial in France.

The size of the installation and the echo of the earthquake in the setting of the steel rods was very moving.

Also it was very quiet, no one was talking.  
They were al listening to audioguides.
I hate the things and like listening to silence and reading the labels, looking and making my own assumptions.

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Created from the timbers of old Temples and Earthquake rubble.

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Twitter meets handcuffs and video surveillance.  Says a lot about China.
Reminded me of Hermes styled scarves. 

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This was not obvious at first glance……

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Until I went underneath and realised they were bikes!
Bicycle Chandelier  

There was a lot more to the exhibition, some left me cold – why did I need to see into boxes to see models of his life in captivity?  I knew the story, was this art?
Repurposing old chairs and tables to modern art, yes, can do that….. 

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 But this, well I couldn’t forgive him easily for grinding up Neolithic pots to create dust stored in jars.  
Lots of pots and lots of destroyed jars.

Worth visiting?  Absolutely.
Will you like it all?  Maybe.
Should you feel empathy with all art?  No.

I also went to see the Edmund de Waal installations in the library.
Have to say I was more interested in the books than the art.


On the way to the RA I took the wrong turn from the hotel and instead of walking down Piccadilly I walked down Pall Mall.
(I’m not sure how it is possible to miss Piccadilly Circus but I managed it!)

But…. a blue plaque…. I peered across and saw it was the site of the house of Nell Gwynn during 1671-1687.
So we all know what went on in THAT house don’t me.

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