When the NoCrowds blogster wants you to accompany her to a cultural event, the editor refuses at his peril. Last week we went to the opening of the Ai Weiwei show at the Royal Academy of Arts. Having braved rush hour traffic and monsoon like rain, I was less than chuffed upon arrival in Piccadilly.
All I had heard about Weiwei was that he was a big deal in artistic dissent. I thought this is going to be the Chinese “big art” version of Anish Kapoor. Was I wrong!! Weiwei, through his montages, takes you on a virtual visit of his country, from the end of the Qing dynasty to the present. One of his creations is an inverted map of China with a three-legged stool representing Taiwan—powerfully demonstrating the disparity in size between the PRC and its “lost” province. Another represents the destruction of Chinese cultural heritage to make way for megacities. He also indicts his government for failing to control corruption, which contributes to a variety of disasters.
In eleven rooms, Weiwei uses different art media to explore the country’s past and present. Do not be fooled, he is an ardent nationalist who wants China to face up to its glorious past, problematic present and its potential going forward. His often petty treatment by the Chinese authorities tells us more about their insecurity and unspoken concern that China could be broken up as was the Soviet Union
Until Weiwei, my view of contemporary art was the Impressionists. They made a big splash disrupting the cosy old boy hold on the Salon in Paris. Weiwei goes far beyond them impressing us with his use of materials and his commitment to a better China.