|AI WEIWEI AT BLENHEIM PALACE 1 October – 14 December 2014|
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 will 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), 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), featuring 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.
As the inaugural exhibition of the Blenheim Art Foundation, Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace marks a new programme of contemporary art, which will see exhibitions presented at the palace by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists. It is founded by Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, whose family have resided at Blenheim Palace since it was built in the early 18th century, and whose father the 11th Duke of Marlborough is the current owner. A dedicated collector of contemporary art, Lord Edward has long held the ambition to launch a contemporary art programme at Blenheim Palace. He realises Blenheim Art Foundation with newly appointed Director, Michael Frahm.
Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, Founder, Blenheim Art Foundation, said: “The launch of the Blenheim Art Foundation is a very exciting moment for Blenheim Palace. We are delighted to be able to host an artist of the calibre and eminence of Ai Weiwei at Blenheim and hope that our new programme of contemporary art, beginning with this exhibition, will challenge and inspire our visitors.”
Michael Frahm, Director, Blenheim Art Foundation, said: “This exhibition presents an extensive view of the artist's diverse practice spanning more than three decades from the early 1980s in New York to modern day Beijing, where he is today confined to the borders of China. Ai Weiwei's way of approaching the world challenges the status quo and he continues to raise critical questions on social, cultural and political issues. It has been a true pleasure working with Ai Weiwei, turning our vision into reality, and it is a great privilege for us to launch Blenheim Art Foundation with one of the most important living artists.”
About Ai Weiwei
Born in 1957 in Beijing, Ai Weiwei is one of the most influential cultural figures of the 21st century. A prolific artist and social activist, based in Beijing, he has been a vocal critic of democracy and human rights in China. Ai was arrested in 2011 and held for 81 days without charge, sparking global protest. His passport was confiscated and he is currently detained in China where he lives and works in restricted conditions.
Recent and current solo exhibitions include Evidence, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; Ai WeiWei in the Chapel at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Ai Weiwei: According to What?, Pérez Art Museum Miami; Ai Weiwei. Resistance and Tradition, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, Seville, Spain; German Pavilion, Biennale de Venezia, Italy. With Herzog & de Meuron, Ai Weiwei was architect for the National Stadium of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. @Large Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz will open on Alcatraz Island on 27 September 2014.
About Blenheim Art Foundation
Blenheim Art Foundation launches on 1 October and will establish a new programme of contemporary art at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Offering visitors a unique opportunity to experience contemporary art in the historic setting of the palace and its celebrated grounds, the not-for-profit foundation aims to give the greatest number of people access to the most innovative contemporary artists working today. www.blenheimartfoundation.org.uk
About Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace was a gift from Queen Anne and a grateful nation to the 1st Duke of Marlborough for his great victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. Designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site in 1987, Blenheim Palace carries a unique aura of history and achievement. The Palace is also home to the 11th Duke of Marlborough and his family, and is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.
For more information - http://www.blenheimpalace.com/whats-on/exhibitions/ai-weiwei-at-blenheim-palace.html