A London weekend.

I spent the weekend in London with an old school friend; we go a couple of times a year to see exhibitions, and stay in a friendly hotel in Bloomsbury. The weather was good, we did much flaneuring, drinking of red wine [ not all day ] and talking, [ definitely all day. ]

On this occasion we went to the Royal Academy in Piccadilly on both days, to see the new Ai Weiwei exhibition, and also managing to see the Joseph Cornell show, as well as the Waterloo Cartoon and other rooms which were open, due to it being a heritage weekend. As this is a special year, age wise, I treated myself to Friend’s membership, which is fun as you don’t have to book for exhibitions, and there is a nice quiet cafe, lounge and lovely little garden available for your use. So naturally we took full advantage of this, and hope to go to as many shows and previews as possible including next years Summer Exhibition.

So, here are some images. Ai Weiwei, a renowned Chinese artist, became better known in this country after his show of ten million sunflower seeds in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern. I didn’t see that, but I found this RA show to be quite amazing, a brave and uncompromising collection of politically outspoken art. He also had a hand in designing the Birds Nest Stadium for the 2008 Olympics held in China.

See more about him at:


Below, some sculpture made from dismantled Qing Dynasty temples.




Above, ‘Fragment’, a huge sculpture made from timber from Qing temples, which forms the outline of a map of China if seen from above.

‘Straight’, his response to the Sichuan earthquake, below.




Below, ‘Souvenir from Shanghai’, a sculpture made from Qing Dynasty temple remains and his own studio, also destroyed by the government.


Below, a selection of other exhibits.


‘Grass’ and below a glass cube, sorry didn’t note the title, I spent far too long wondering about its construction instead.



‘Treasure Box.’  This deconstructs beautifully.


‘Free-speech puzzle.’ A map of China made from ceramic lucky charms.


The diorama room, ‘S.A.C.R.E.D’, in which his detention for 81 days in 2011 is painstakingly documented.


A view inside one of the diorama cells.


Han dynasty pots given a new role. Breaking, painting and grinding up ancient ceramics as he does is a difficult one, as we revere such things. In this case it is undoubtedly a comment upon the history of the destructive government of China. But he is known a a playful chap, and many copies of such pots are made and sold in China; he could be smashing, grinding and painting such copies.


Wallpaper with Twitter logo, surveillance cameras, handcuffs.

Below, I.O.U wallpaper.



‘Very Yao’, a chandelier of bicycles.


The courtyard of the Royal Academy, showing Ai Weiwei’s ‘Tree.’

The Joseph Cornell exhibition was quite a direct contrast to Ai Weiwei’s comments on the existing world.

Joseph Cornell constructed his own surreal fantasy worlds using collage and assemblage, during the 20th century. His exhibition, ‘Wanderlust’, shows how he wandered, cerebrally,  vast distances in his exploration of the world, history, nature, literature, cinema, dance and astronomy. He rarely left New York state, working alone in his New York basement studio, influencing and impressing many 20th century artists, and many artists since, both professional and amateur, who work with collage and assemblage.


One of his fascinating boxes, L’Égypte de Mlle Cléo de Mérode cours élémentaire d’histoire naturelle, 1940.

See more of his delicate and absorbing work here:


It was in this show that I bumped into Hilary Grayson; it was great to see you Hilary! I tried to comment on your blog but it wouldn’t let me. See her blog on my sidebar, living to work-working to live, for her take on the Joseph Cornell show.

The Waterloo Cartoon is so worth seeing, being the most amazing drawing, mostly in black chalk with one or two coloured pigments. It’s 13 metres wide, and was drawn by Daniel Maclise in 1858-1859, in preparation for the finished painting in the Houses of Parliament.



And now a wonderful contrast, London Fashion Week. On the walk back and for the to the RA we sat in the deck chairs in the sun in Golden Square, Soho, on a few occasions, watching the live catwalk shows. Great fun. I wouldn’t say no to a couple of the Jasper Conran frocks we saw, thanks.




2 thoughts on “A London weekend.

Comments are closed.