You have to wonder about Ai Weiwei? A media darling and clever self-promoter, he is loved by the press. But really, how good is his art?
Ai Weiwei does not like the Chinese government, past or present. He has his reasons. The government ruined his family, destroyed his studio, locked him up, hacked his accounts and took away his passport. They don’t like him either. Ai Weiwei has managed an incredibly successful campaign highlighting the government’s mistakes, corruption, illegal and immoral actions. He is a courageous, effective, anti- government activist. He is a skilled blackjack player. But he is also a high profile and extremely well paid artist.
His current show at the Royal Academy in London is getting rave reviews. My feelings were more mixed. I felt the most successful pieces were those that were beautiful first and political statement second. I loved ‘Trees” in the main courtyard, ‘Straight” a mesmerizing arrangement of steel bars and the large marble “grass” piece ‘Cao’. Others were just too obviously protest pieces for me… Unlike the critics, I really didn’t see the artistic merit of the steel boxes housing prison tableaux found at the end of the show.
As I handed back my free headset the person behind me remarked, “rubbish, nothing but emperor’s new clothes”.