Ai Weiwei Adds Crabs, Handcuffs to Blenheim Palace Decor in New Exhibition

  • September 29, 2014 21:59

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Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace launches the Blenheim Art Foundation this week with a splashy inaugural exhibition of Ai Weiwei works. "Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace," on view from Oct. 1 to Dec. 14, 2014, combines more than 50 of the Beijing-bound artist's new and older installations and pieces throughout the sumptuous palace and its Capability Brown-designed grounds in Oxfordshire, UK. The site is quite a departure from the somber Alcatraz setting in San Francisco Bay were a concurrent exhibition of Ai's work is now on view.


Parts of the Blenheim exhibition have an element of surprise: a profile of Marcel Duchamp made out of a wire coat hanger and wood handcuffs adorn the room where Winston Churchill was born. In the red-hued dining room there are 2,300 porcelain crabs strewn about. Other works are more familiar and perhaps blend in the palace setting such as Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 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.
From Ai Weiwei's Animal Zodiac Heads, Gold, 2010, Horse, at Blenheim Palace.

Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones writes, "Ai seems to be having some immense joke by showing his art so copiously in such ripely historic surrounding." In this posh place, he says Ai delivers "a chaotic, hilarious, liberating vision of history gone mad."

Ai's crowd-and-critic-pleasing debut for the new foundation could signal an interesting future. The launch of the Blenheim Art Foundation is a very exciting moment for Blenheim Palace," said Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, founder of Blenheim Art Foundation. 

"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."

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