Man at His Best

Ai Wei Wei's Work From The Past 25 Years Can Be Viewed In Virtual Reality

His retrospective exhibition in London ended last year, but it can still be viewed in a 360 virtual tour.

BY shermian lim | Apr 12, 2016 | Travel

Royal Academy of Arts

Last year, the Royal Academy of Arts in London hosted a retrospective of works by Ai Wei Wei in the past 25 years, but if you missed it, fret not: the exhibition continues to exist online.

This reincarnation of the exhibition is known as Ai Wei Wei 360, a virtual tour of the original exhibition that you can access from the Royal Academy’s website. You’ll “begin” the tour with a message from the curator, and Julian Assange, who gives you not one, but two middle fingers by way of parting, before your view swoops into the courtyard of the Academy ala Google Street View. Clicking around on the interactive site will soon find you in one of the galleries, where you can explore and enjoy the work of the controversial, dissident artist.

The nature of Ai’s work makes it best experienced up close. His installations often make use of salvaged materials—wood, steel and ceramics that come from a long-gone period; or from places with a story to tell. The tales are of real-life tragedies, or political messages about corruption and greed, but they hit close to the heart and—perhaps—ignite your sense of social responsibility. To fully appreciate any work by Ai, you have to look closely, peer at it from different angles, and take an audio tour, or at least read the descriptions.

But since the physical exhibition is now over, and unless the exhibition happens to hit up a city close by, your best bet is the virtual tour. With the level of detail, videos and multiple choices for viewing angles, Ai Wei Wei 360 almost makes it feel like you are really standing right there in the gallery, amidst the installations. Almost.