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Architecture & Design, Art & Public Space, Exhibitions & Events, Sculpture, Social Engagement

Ai Weiwei: Cubes and Trees. The Heong Gallery, Cambridge. June–9 October 2016

ai wei wei trees 3Ai Weiwei‘s exhibition, Cubes and Trees, presents two major series of this artist’s work in the Heong Gallery and the grounds of Downing College. The work is in a variety of media, including sculpture, film, video and wallpaper. It is focused on two series of sculptures. In the gallery four cubes are constructed from different materials – tea, wood and glass. The series of four one-metre-square cubes are made from compacted tea, carved ebony, crystal and huali wood that relate minimalist sculptural forms with Chinese craft and heritage. In the gallery courtyard and the college grounds, Tree, 2015, is a sculptural group of reconstructed trees, reconstructed and assembled with industrial bolts and mortise and tenon joints resembling a post Armageddon petrified forest. The trees are made from dead trees gathered in the mountains of southern China which are recreated in his Beijing studio. In China, trees are viewed and respected as parallel to the dead on earth, inhabiting the space between heaven and underworld. The trees have also been seen as a metaphor for China, where ethnically diverse peoples have been united to form a modern One China. The 10-minute film On the Boat, made on the island of Lesbos in Greece shows the perilous journey of refugees as they arrive in Europe. Finger, 2014, is a wallpaper design showing the insulting symbol of a raised middle finger in a geometric pattern. 

ai wei wei tree closeupai wei wei courtyard 5ai wei wei trees h

ai wei wei gallery 3

Architects Caruso St John transformed the College’s Edwardian stables, and bicycle sheds at Downing College, Cambridge into a gallery space dedicated to modern and contemporary art. This follows their 2009 redevelopment of the College’s Dining Hall, which dates from 1818. The College was founded in 1800 designed in neo-classical style by William Wilkins.



The Heong Gallery, Photograph © Tim Rawle and Louis Sinclair

The Heong Gallery opened on 6th February 2016, with the first exhibition featuring works from the private collection of Sir Alan Bowness, former Director of Tate and an alumnus of Downing College. Generation Painting 1955-65: British Art from the Collection of Sir Alan Bowness included works by mid-twentieth-century British artists including Patrick Heron, Allen Jones, Peter Lanyon and William Scott.

Ai Weiwei (b. 1957) is a Chinese artist and activist who lives and works in Berlin and Beijing. His art practice involves architecture, literature, political and social issues and a primary theme of human rights and freedom of speech. After attending Beijing Film Academy, he moved to New York, where he lived between 1981 and 1993. Since his installation Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern six years ago, Ai Weiwei has been the focus of several displays in British institutions. Most notably, his exhibition at the Royal Academy last October was hailed as ‘the cultural phenomenon of the year’. Other major solo exhibitions include the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2012) and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2009). Architectural collaborations include the 2012 Serpentine Pavilion and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Stadium, with Herzog and de Meuron. In 2007 he brought 1,001 Chinese citizens to the German town of Kassel as part of his work for documenta 12, entitled Fairytale. He is one of the leading cultural figures of his generation and consistently places himself at risk to effect social change and encourage free speech. Most recently, he has been working with refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos.

ai wei wei Finger

Finger, 2014, wallpaper design

The exhibition has been curated by John Tancock in collaboration with Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei, Cubes and Trees. The Heong Gallery, Downing College, Cambridge CB2 1DQ

17 June–9 October 2016

Wednesday 10am–8pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday10Aam–6pm

T. 01223 334800 info@heonggallery.com


Ai Wei Wei interview. New York Times. T Magazine. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/16/t-magazine/ai-weiwei-trees-cambridge.html?_r=0

Cube: Images

Ai Weiwei, Cube in Ebony, 2009, Rosewood, 100 x 100 x 100 cm

Ai Weiwei, Treasure Box, 2014, Huali wood, 100 x 100 x 100 cm

Ai Weiwei, Tea Cube, 2008, 100 x 100 x 100 cm

Ai Weiwei, Crystal cube, 2014, Leaded Glass, 100 x 100 x 100 cm

About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


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