Ai Wei Wei at Blenheim Palace
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Oooh you’re going to love this exhibition! Chinese artist and activist Ai Wei Wei, has created an incredibly fun, subversive and cheeky exhibition that touches on colonialism, national identity, breaking with tradition, commercialism and I’m sure a whole lot more that has sailed right over the Muddy head. Currently unable to leave Beijing after falling foul of the Chinese authorities, Ai Wei Wei has created the whole thing from across the other side of the world, and it’s quite the spectacle.
The thing I loved most about this exhibition is how integrated it is with the palace. Art works are placed in the rooms with no fanfare or explanation, so it forces you to look at those rooms properly, in a way you often don’t in place of great, relentless beauty, where you can eventually brush your eyes past a Rembrandt or Turner without even stopping.
There’s no mistaking the first art work though, as you walk into the atrium. Look at this baby! Over five metres long and four metres wide, and probably only two metres from the floor.
…. along with more obvious critique of traditional power as he cops the finger at the Houses of Parliament, White House and other institutions, right the way through the Blenheim Palace library.
The exhibition created quite the stir with quite a few tourists horrified about the ‘disgusting’ art on display that they felt spoilt the beautiful interiors. I felt quite the opposite, and am really looking forward to taking Mr Muddy and the kids to see it. I think it’s a brilliant way to engage children not just in modern art, but in what they often see as stuffy old buildings. Waddesdon Manor does this brilliantly too, I really think it’s the way forward for these stately homes and estates.
There are quite a few Ai Wei Wei installations in the grounds too, once you’ve snaked your way through the house, the most striking of which is on the lawn of the South Park, giant porcelain symettrical ‘Bubbles’ that just beg for a photo opportunity. Ta-da!
Once I’d left the exhibiiton, I hopped on a little buggy tour of the lake, £3.50 for a 25 minute drive around the grounds which was fab. I wish it had gone further afield, because the one thing you probably never get to see enough of are the grounds – there’s just so much of them and understandably everyone heads straight for the house. You can book it in advance but it kind of depends on the weather if it’s running. It’s probably the sort of thing you’ll just do on the spur of the moment but it’s quite fun.
If you have time, you can hop on the little railway that takes you around to the Pleasure Gardens, pretty much designed with kids in mind, with a maze, giant chess and a butterfly enclosure that’s doubled in size since last year. I ran out of time to check that out, but you can spend a whole day here with no problem at all. My advice is to come on the weekend and do just that.
For house and gardens, adults £22.50, kids £12.30, family £59. blenheimpalace.com