The Cursed Spellbound Garden, Ai Weiwei in Mantova

I’ll be in Shanghai very (very) soon and guys, I can’t wait.
More or less two months before my departure I read about an exhibition, Ai Weiwei in Italy. My reaction was the same of a child that looking outside the window sees the circus arriving in town.
The exhibition was staged in Mantova, north of Italy, 430 kilometers from where I lived but it wasn’t a problem.

Il Giardino Incantato” (The Spellbound Garden) at Palazzo Te is incredible..Amazing.

Palazzo Te, great and charming Palace built at the beginning of 1500 by the Gonzaga Family of Mantova and decorated by Giulio Romano, the most important Raffaello’s learner, was already known on web by Ai who, with the precious help given by the curators Sandro Orlandi Stagl and Mian Bu, made such a wonderful work in exhibition design. The title given to the exhibition refers the reality of the Reinassance’s Court as well as a new reality, strickly contemporary, something surreal or industrially built, the reality re-constructed by Ai. Every piece of art gives you the idea of an elaborated work of “choosing the right corner” and is connected with the specific chamber where is shown. For example, the big installation by Ai weiwei, composed by 91 pottery horses in Tang Style and decorated with industrial paint, is mounted at the center of the big Horses Chamber creating such a time distortion between two eras..that was my favorite work in all the exhibition..and my smartphone’s new screensaver.

Ai Weiwei, Horses Installation, Palazzo Te, Mantova, 2015. Photo by L.R
Ai Weiwei, Horses Installation, Palazzo Te, Mantova, 2015. Photo by L.R

Ai’s installation composed by original Tang temple columns made new with original Ferrari paint (Yes, Ferrari!) is mounted inside the famous Giants Chamber. This work made by the Chinese artist wants to break boundaries between past and present like the original perspective chamber’s decoration did more or less 500 years ago. Ai and Romano are such connected in this room by that wire only art creates.

I found myself in front of an amazing work that I already knew. Remains or rubbles of an anonimous place distructed during the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. The shock that you can have discovering that those pieces are copies made of pottery is unique. Once again traditional boundaries are broken. A so traditional matter like pottery used for the representation of a so common thing looks like a sacrilege act (and that’s it!) but is actually more: is putting the attention on an inconvenient “something else”. My emotions move between extacy and a sort of delution for discovering that Ai’ works were not many.

Fortunately other two (very interesting) artists collaborated with Ai for the exhibition, Meng Huang and Li Zhanyang, the first is a very skilled painter who works using the ancient tecnique of chinese ink paintings on very large canvases; Li works instead on interesting installations and resin sculptures. Is unnecessary repeat how their works are strickly connected to the Palace and with Ai’s situation as well. A big installation by Li shows the scene of a dream made by him in which he saw Ai Weiwei closed in a small apartment writing on his laptop; outside of the window a big storm, thunders and lightning are arriving…to me (and not only) a HUGE allusion.

Ai Weiwei, Tang Temple Columns (with industrial paint), Palazzo Te, Mantova, 2015. Photo by L.R
Ai Weiwei, Tang Temple Columns (with industrial paint), Palazzo Te, Mantova, 2015. Photo by L.R

Li’s works are, in most cases, focused on contemporary chinese (or worldwide) society and on how some social mechanisms are still the same since the time of the Empire. He tells us little secret stories, daily stories, in most cases anonimous, somehow related to Gonzaga’s Reinassance Court stories. One work for all gave me this sensation, a superstar like Jesus, bringing is Cross, is completely ignored, left alone with himself, perhaps because also in our modern metropolis (and chinese artists know very well what a metropolis is) we are alone, and our story is not more important then anyone else.

At the end results a great show to our eyes. I know, I love the “king” Ai and I don’t want to spend (or waste) other words on him but trust me, you can’t miss that. I recommend it, totally. Only a negative note for me in addition to what i said before about the few number of Ai’s works; I visited the Exhibition at the beginning of April and the official catalog wasn’t already set for the publication, CRAZYY. Hope to buy it online very soon.


Il Giardino Incantato – Ai Weiwei, Meng Huang, Li Zhanyang”

Palazzo Te, Mantova, Italy

March.7.2015 – July.5.2015

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