Blenheim Art Foundation opens its inaugural show ‘Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace’ in October 2014 to critical acclaim. A radical game of juxtaposition between the contemporary Chinese dissident artist and the emblem of traditional, old-world England, this is a bold initiative never taken before at Blenheim.
The exhibition is a survey of many of Ai’s most celebrated works, placed within the Palace and in the surrounding grounds. The display embraces the juxtaposition of old and new, decorative and minimalist, traditional and avant-garde. A focus on traditional craftsmanship, daily domestic life, power, class, hierarchy and liberty pervade both the history of Blenheim Palace and Ai’s practice, creating interesting and unprecedented parallels between two seemingly distant cultures. The inclusion of Ai’s canonical objects – based and constructed from crafted domestic furniture – nestled amongst Blenheim’s own wares and treasures – creates uncanny visual disjunctures, making viewers look twice; a game of spot-the-Weiwei.
With the artist still detained in China, the exhibition is the result of a close collaboration between Ai and the Foundation and, at the time of opening, is the most comprehensive survey of his work in Europe to date.