Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei set for huge London retrospective

Tue Sep 15, 2015 4:14pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Dissident artist Ai Weiwei has had his run-ins with the authorities in his native China, but the Royal Academy of Arts is giving him all the space he needs for a mammoth retrospective opening in London on Saturday.

Among the works on display are security surveillance cameras, a pushchair and giant blades of grass, all carved out of marble, and a massive rolled-out map of China made of wood salvaged from dismantled temples.

Another room is hung with wallpaper with the repeated motif of a forearm and hand, with the middle finger up in the universally rude gesture.

Wallpaper in an adjoining room shows handcuffs and the Twitter social-media-site bird logo surrounded by CCTV cameras, all done in gold on a white background.

"We are expecting a lot of visitors to this show and as you can see, the spaces at the Academy I think have been brilliantly used by Ai Weiwei," Tim Marlow, the Academy's Artistic Director, said during a press tour on Tuesday.

Ai was unable to leave China for four years after his passport was confiscated at the airport when he was preparing to fly out of the country in April 2011. He was detained for 81 days after which he was released into a form of house arrest.

He worked with the Academy staff on the retrospective over the Internet and by phone, and through visits by curators to his home in Beijing.

When his passport was returned in July he was able to visit Berlin, where his son and partner live, and London to put the finishing touches to the exhibition.   Continued...

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses for photographers during a photocall for his exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Britain September 15, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall