I’ve only ever had a passing knowledge of Ai Weiwei. The Chinese government hated him, I knew that much, and his contemporary art always seemed intended to irritate the powers that be even more – so much so, they took his passport for four years (the scoundrels). From a distance, he seemed humorous, genuine. Creative. Committed to his cause. Maybe even normal, for an artist. “You have a responsibility to make sure your language is clear”, he says on the audio commentary of his new show at the Royal Academy of Arts – and it’s that aspect of this latest survey that’s makes it a powerful, thought-provoking testimony of his life and work.
I spent last Friday afternoon checking it out with a friend. It was frustratingly crowded, which I guess is to be expected with blockbuster shows like this one – but once we dodged the school groups and the selfie sticks, we got the chance to appreciate pieces he created over the past 20 years (including some new ones, specifically for RA). He’s very good at corrupting traditions to make a case for human rights and creative freedom – and though it’s occasionally cheeky and disturbing, it’s unequivocally sincere.
The show’s worth a visit and on until 13th December and you can find out more about it here. In the meantime, check out some of my snaps from my recent visit below: