Ai Weiwei Making Sense, Design Museum REVIEW
The Ai Weiwei experience begins as you approach Kensington's Design Museum with two comfy-looking armchairs, squishy, padded, just asking kids to sit on them. They are not as cosy as they look, made of unforgiving, smooth marble. Just outside the museum entrance there is a large stone roll of toilet paper - arresting, big, amusing. Into the entrance hall (this part is still free to enter) and you have walked into a world of elaborately carved Chinese woodwork covered in paper wrappers. It is tacky and brash, in a fun Chinatown way. The whole effect is beautiful to look at, irreverent, makes you laugh and makes you think.
Make sure you pick up an exhibition programme as you walk into the show itself, in one massive single warehouse-like space, as it explains how the room is laid out. Four huge, flat rectangles of carefully arranged stones/porcelain dominate the space like great fields and you walk around them. A fifth is filled with lego bits, overhung with wooden columns from a Chinese temple. The theme for these is 'Evidence'. What is the value and purpose of 'stuff' in the history of civilisation?
The surrounding walls contain pieces on the themes of Construction/Destruction: from a recreation of Monet's Water Lillies entirely from lego, to a giant snake made from life vests dedicated to the victims of the refugee crisis in Europe, and Ordinary Things, found objects.
Sometimes beautiful, sometimes baffling, always thought-provoking, we think children will enjoy it. Pick up your Chatterbox sheet on the way in. We made ours when we got home but it would make for a very unusual exhibition guide. Your starting points are PAST, PRESENT, WORLD and SELF. Questions inside include, 'If you could destroy something, for a good reason, what would it be and why?', 'Which object on display best describes you and why?'
Making sense? Not necessarily but the world is definitely a better place with Ai Weiwei in it.
Ai Weiwei: Making Sense is at the Design Museum, Holland Park 7 April–30 July 2023
Tickets: £18.50 ages 16+, £9.25 ages 11–15, U11s free.