VISITORS strolling through Blenheim Palace in Woodstock have been doing a series of double-takes.

In the grand surroundings of the 18th century palace they are being confronted with more than 50 artworks by celebrated Chinese artist and social activist Ai Weiwei.

The exhibition, the launch of the Blenheim Art Foundation, has been entertaining visitors since the weekend, and is officially opening tomorrow.

The show has taken meticulous planning by the Beijing artist, who has been forced to curate the show from a distance because the Chinese authorities will not allow him to travel out of the country.

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Visitors have been stopping to stare at the installations, including seminal works He Xie, which features 2,300 small, porcelain crabs in the Red Drawing Room, Slanted Table, a reconfigured Qing Dynasty Table, 55 photographs documenting the artist’s time in New York from 1983 to 1993, and Soft Ground, a carpet which has been placed in the Great Hall.

The artist said in a guide to the show: “For this exhibition I chose to make a carpet based on a strip of dirt road in the countryside, with tread marks running through it.

“For me these tread marks really captured my interest.

“I thought if I could put it on the carpet and replace the original red carpet in the palace it would be the most interesting piece in the entire exhibition. The tread marks on the carpet placed in this palace setting create a stark contrast between two very different ways of life.”

Michael Frahm, director of the Blenheim Art Foundation, said: “This exhibition presents an extensive view of the artist’s diverse practice spanning more than three decades from the early 1980s in New York, to modern day Beijing, where he is today confined to the borders of China. Ai Weiwei’s way of approaching the world challenges the status quo and he continues to raise critical questions on social, cultural and political issues.

“It has been a true pleasure working with Ai Weiwei, turning our vision into reality, and it is a great privilege for us to launch Blenheim Art Foundation with one of the most important living artists.”

Witney Gazette:

The Blenheim Art Foundation has been launched by Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill, son of Blenheim owner, the 11th Duke of Marlborough, above.

Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace runs until December 14. Visit for details.

Witney Gazette:

Witney Gazette:

Witney Gazette:

A chandelier in the great hall, top, zodiac heads and antique wooden stools, above

Who is ai weiwei?

Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 and is one of the most infuential artists of the 21st century.
Based in Beijing, he has commented on democracy and human rights issues in China. The artist was arrested in 2011 and held for 81 days without charge, sparking global concern.
His passport was confiscated and as a result he is unable to travel to 
exhibitions like the one at Blenheim Palace. Ai Weiwei was architect for the National Stadium of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and another exhibition of his work takes place this month at Alcatraz Island, San Francisco.

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