Ai Weiwei Will Install 90 Tons of Steel at London’s Royal Academy of Arts

Ai Weiwei in his studio
Photo: © Harry Pearce/Pentagram 2015

Ai Weiwei will exhibit his work Straight (2008-12) as part of his first major survey in the UK, which opens at London’s Royal Academy of Arts on September 19 (see Ai Weiwei Coming to London Show).

Straight—made in response to the large number of children who died as a result of shoddy construction following the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008—is made of about 200 tons of steel. The bars, which were twisted and distorted during the earthquake, were taken from the wreckage and pulled straight, thus creating the work.

The Royal Academy’s floor, however, can only hold 90 tons of it.

“It is I think the heaviest work we’ve ever put in our galleries here,” co-curator Adrian Locke told the Guardian. “Aside from the technical challenge, it is a very somber and sobering work when you see it, it has this kind of power and silence about it … it bears a real sense of loss of life.”

In light of the news that the Chinese authorities have approved three exhibitions of Ai’s work opening in Beijing this month, there is a sense that their treatment of him may be softening (see Ai Weiwei Opens First Solo Exhibition in China Since 2011).

He has been at odds with the authorities since speaking out on human rights issues, which lead to him being detained in 2011 and his passport being removed (see Ai Weiwei Asks Chinese President to Visit His Berlin Show).

Ai WeiweiCourtesy Center for the Creative Arts

Ai Weiwei
Photo: Courtesy Center for the Creative Arts


Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (2010)Photo: Phillips

Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (2010)
Photo: Phillips



Ai Weiwei, Pull of the Moon (2014)
Photo: Robert Schwan

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