Ai Weiwei in the Chapel

Art
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Ai Weiwei, Iron Tree, 2013. Courtesy Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo Jonty Wilde

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Ai Weiwei, Iron Tree, 2013. Courtesy Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo Jonty Wilde

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Ai Weiwei, Lantern, 2014. Courtesy Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo Jonty Wilde

A selection of work from the biggest name in Chinese art, arranged by the artist's instruction as he remains forbidden from leaving China

Though unable to leave his homeland of China after having his passport confiscated by the authorities, political artist and activist Ai Weiwei still manages to show his work across the world with the help of his supporters. At YSP, inside the restored eighteenth century St Bartholomew’s Chapel, 45 chairs from his 2007 installation ‘Fairytale – 1001 chairs’ have been set out according to precise instructions sent from the artist via email.

Three more pieces are displayed inside the chapel: ‘Ruyi’, a dainty porcelain sculpture based on a traditional Chinese sceptre; a ‘Map of China’, made of reclaimed wood from destroyed Qing dynasty temples; and ‘Lantern’, an oversized marble copy of the red lanterns Weiwei hung over the CCTV cameras that surround his home, installed by the Chinese authorities to monitor him.

However, the most striking work in this exhibition is the one standing outside the chapel. ‘Iron Tree’ is a majestic composite made up of 99 casts taken from bits of roots, trunks and branches of different trees, which were collected by people across China. Rusted to an autumnal orangey-red, the tree has an eerie beauty that is offset brilliantly by its hallowed surroundings. 

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