CAR weighs Ai Weiwei’s art

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A major retrospective of the work of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has recently been held at London’s Royal Academy of Arts. Among new works created specifically for the Royal Academy are a number of large-scale installations. CAR’s structural engineers worked with the RA to verify the weights of these heavy installations and checked that the floors were strong enough.

‘Straight’ commemorates the 5,000 children who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that shattered their schools. Over 90 tons of twisted metal were collected from the ruins of the schools and straightened by hand in Ai Weiwei’s studio. It was the heaviest exhibit ever shown in the Royal Academy.

CAR designed a minimal frame to hang a 3-ton chandelier of bicycle frames from a single point under the glass dome of the central hall. This frame was hung from four wires passing through air grills in the ceiling pendentives.

Ai Weiwei became widely know in Britain after his sunflower seeds installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2010, but this was the first major institutional survey of his work ever held in the UK and it bridged over two decades of his career.

The exhibition contained some of his most important works from the time he returned to China from the US in 1993 up to the present day. These works comment on creative freedom, censorship and human rights, as well as examining contemporary Chinese art and society.

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