We headed up to Blenheim for the Ai Weiwei opening along with several thousands of others, all coming out for the autumn sunshine. It was a bit of a scrum – hundreds of daytrippers, plus the Woodstock Literary Festival, plus an unprivate private view. The Ai Weiwei installations are big and ambitious and work surprisingly well.
The display begins with a massive chandelier in the Great Hall:
Next is the jokey Coca-cola logo inscribed on a Han Dynasty vase:
In the corridor are some kitsch floral plates displayed alongside the cabinets of Sèvres:
We liked the porcelain crabs in the Red Drawing Room which commemorate the feast his friends had the night before his studio was burned down:
Next came the Saloon, the central room on the South Front with an array of gilded signs of the zodiac:
In the Second State Room are two marbled chairs:
In the third State Room, a bowl of pearls:
In the Library, a marble surveillance camera:
Last of the things we saw were the two stately porcelain vases in the colonnade alongside the private apartments:
What is one to make of the display as a whole? First, it is done in a full-blooded way, not just as occasional interventions, but filling the house, work which in a curious way partly belongs like cases of oriental ceramics and partly jars. I think the Ai Weiwei’s work best when there is an elision with the original, a frisson of incongruity as history is matched by works from a very different artisan culture.