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Ai Weiwei // Royal Academy of Arts, London

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing, taken in April 2015 . Photo (c) Harry Pearce/Pentagram, 2015.

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing, taken in April 2015 . Photo (c) Harry Pearce/Pentagram, 2015.

Although Ai is one of China’s leading contemporary artists, his work has not been seen extensively in Britain. For this reason the Royal Academy presents the first major institutional survey of his artistic output. The exhibition includes significant works from 1993 onwards, the date that marks Ai Weiwei’s return to China following more than a decade living in New York. For the occasion, Ai Weiwei has created new site-specific installations and interventions throughout the Royal Academy’s spaces.

Ai works in a variety of different contexts, scales and media. He transforms materials to convey his ideas, whether in wood, porcelain, marble or jade, testing the skills of the craftsmen working to his brief in the process. Some pieces take months to create and pass through lengthy periods of experimentation, pushing the boundaries of the formal qualities of a material. Sculptures such as Surveillance Camera, 2010 and Video Camera, 2010, both masterpieces in craftsmanship, monumentalise the technology used to monitor, simultaneously rendering it useless and absurd.

One of the key installations within the exhibition will be Straight, 2008-12, part of the body of work related to the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. Fabricated from ninety tonnes of bent and twisted rebar (the steel rods used in the construction of reinforced concrete buildings), collected by the artist and straightened by hand, it is a sober monument to the victims of the earthquake. The subject of destruction, whether by demolition or as a consequence of natural disasters is one of a number of recurring themes and motifs that Ai returns to within his body of work.

The exhibition has been developed in close collaboration with Ai, who has taken an architectural approach to the layout of the exhibition, within the Royal Academy’s spectacular Main Galleries, befitting the monumental character of many of his pieces. The artist has virtually navigated the spaces from his studio in Beijing, through video footage of the galleries and architectural plans. The curators have also made regular visits to his studio. Ai Weiwei regained his passport in July 2015 and was able to present the exhibition himself on the day of the premiere.
Here you can watch the video interview wih Tim Marlow, curator of the exhibition.


// Sebbene Ai sia uno dei più importanti artisti contemporanei cinesi, il suo lavoro non è così diffuso nel Regno Unito. Per questo la Royal Academy presenta la prima importante indagine istituzionale sulla sua produzione artistica. La mostra include lavori significativi dal 1993, data che segna il ritorno di Ai Weiwei in Cina dopo più di dieci anni passati a New York, in avanti. Per l’occasione, Ai Weiwei ha ideato nuove installazioni e interventi site-specific destinati agli spazi della Royal Academy.

Ai lavora in diversi contesti e scale, avvalendosi di diversi media. Trasforma i materiali per veicolare le sue idee, che sia il legno, la porcellana, il marmo o la giada, testando le abilità degli artigiani che lavorano seguendo le sue direttive. Alcuni pezzi impiegano mesi per essere completati e attraversano periodi lunghi di sperimentazione, spingendo i limiti delle qualità formali di un materiale. Sculture come Camera, 2010 e Video Camera, 2010, entrambi grandi esempi di artigianato, monumentalizzano la tecnologia utilizzata per monitorare, dipingendola al contempo come inutile e assurda.

Una delle installazioni chiave all’interno della mostra è Straight, 2008-12, parte dell’insieme di opere collegate al terremoto di Sichuan del 2008. Realizzata con 90 tonnellate di ferri d’armatura piegati e attorcigliati, raccolti dall’artista e raddrizzati a mano, è un monumento serio alle vittime del terremoto. Il soggetto della distruzione, che sia demolizione o risultato di un disastro naturale, è uno dei temi ricorrenti a cui Ai ritorna nel corso della sua produzione.

L’esposizione è stata sviluppata in stretta collaborazione con Ai, che ha tenuto un approccio architettonico per la disposizione della mostra all’interno delle spettacolari Main Galleries della Royal Academy, che si sono rivelate più che appropriate alle caratteristiche monumentali della maggior parte delle sue opere. L’artista ha navigato virtualmente negli spazi dal suo studio a Pechino, attraverso filmati video delle gallerie e disegni tecnici. I curatori hanno inoltre effettuato regolari visite al suo studio. A Luglio 2015, Ai ha riottenuto il suo passaporto e gli è stato così possibile partecipare alla presentazione della mostra il giorno dell’inaugurazione.
Qui potete vedere l’intervista con Tim Marlow, curatore dell’esposizione, tenutasi il 16 Settembre scorso.

Ai Weiwei with his installation Straight, Royal Academy of Arts, 2015. Ph. Dave Parry, Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Ai Weiwei with his installation Straight, Royal Academy of Arts, 2015. Ph. Dave Parry, Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Ai Weiwei presenting his installation Tree in the courtyard at the Royal Academy of Arts, 2015. Ph. Dave Parry, Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Ai Weiwei presenting his installation Tree in the courtyard at the Royal Academy of Arts, 2015. Ph. Dave Parry, Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Ai Weiwei taking a photograph of his installation Coloured Vases, Royal Academy of Arts, 2015. Ph. Dave Parry, Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Ai Weiwei taking a photograph of his installation Coloured Vases, Royal Academy of Arts, 2015. Ph. Dave Parry, Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Ai Weiwei with one of his photographs from Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, Royal Academy of Arts, 2015. Ph. Dave Parry, Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Ai Weiwei with one of his photographs from Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, Royal Academy of Arts, 2015. Ph. Dave Parry, Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Ai Weiwei, Bicycle Chandelier, 2015 Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. Photo courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London. Ph. Dave Parry.

Ai Weiwei, Bicycle Chandelier, 2015. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. Ph. Dave Parry, Courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Ai Weiwei

September 18 – December 13, 2015
Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House, Piccadilly,
London, W1J 0BD
T: 020 7300 8000
comment@royalacademy.org.uk

Sat // Thu 10am – 6pm
Fri 10am – 10pm

For further infos please refer to the gallery website.


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