Ai Weiwei delights at Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire Showing from 1 October - 14 December 2014
The newly formed Blenheim Art Foundation brings the most extensive UK exhibition to date by celebrated Chinese artist and social activist Ai Weiwei. Opening at Blenheim Palace on 1 October as the inaugural and launch exhibition of the Blenheim Art Foundation, the exhibition showcases more than 50 artworks by Ai Weiwei produced over the last 30 years. Featuring early photography dating to Ai’s time spent in New York in the 1980s through to new site-specific works conceived in China especially for the Palace, the show gives visitors the opportunity to experience firsthand the breadth of the artist’s practice, taking place throughout Blenheim Palace.
A globally-recognised social activist, Ai Weiwei has not been able to leave China since 2011 when his passport was confiscated by Chinese authorities. The exhibition at Blenheim Palace is therefore realised through a close collaboration between the artist and the Blenheim Art Foundation team who have worked together with 3D plans and models of the site and grounds. New works realised for the Palace include ‘Soft Ground (Great Hall)’, a site-specific carpet measuring 4510cm by 200cm displayed in the Great Hall; alongside hand-painted porcelain plates with ‘freedom flower’ details in the China Ante Room and ‘Sunflower Seed Stools’, also crafted in porcelain.
Seminal artworks on display will include ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold’ (2010). This is Ai Weiwei’s reinterpretation of the legendary bronze zodiac head statues that once surrounded the fountain-clock at Emperor Yuanming Yuan’s Beijing imperial retreat and ‘He Xie’ (2010) and feature 2300 small porcelain crabs presented in the Red Drawing Room. The show will feature 55 photographs by Ai Weiwei documenting his time spent in New York 1983-1993 alongside ‘Marble Surveillance Camera’ (2010), a poignant reminder of Ai’s current situation; ‘Slanted Table’ (1997), a reconfigured Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) table; and ‘Map of China’, (2009) formed from wood reclaimed from temples also dating to the Qing Dynasty.