9 November 2015
This afternoon, I went to the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Royal Academy. I booked the ticket a couple of weeks ago to coincide with a planned business trip to London. It only dawned on me a few days ago that today would be exactly one year since Chris and I went there, on one of her last outings, to see the Anselm Kiefer exhibition.
On Sunday 9 November 2014, we drove up to Burlington House and parked in one of the blue badge spaces in the courtyard. Sophie Bennett travelled with us and we met Track Goldsmith there. Between us we managed the wheelchair business quite comfortably. It was a great afternoon. Chris was on form and she absolutely loved the scale and boldness of Kiefer’s work. Her eyes glittered with excitement and anticipation as we went from room to room. A month later she was dead.
It felt very strange to be there on my own today. I so wanted to talk to her about the exhibits. What would she have made of Ai Weiwei’s highly political art? Which piece would have drawn her most strongly? Perhaps, like me it would have been Straight, an extraordinary sculpture made from 80 tons of reclaimed ‘rebar’ steel reinforcing rods recovered from school buildings that collapsed in the 2008 Sechuan earthquake.
Thousands of children died in the earthquake, due to corrupt corner-cutting and shoddy construction. Each twisted reinforcing rod had been painstakingly straightened by hand in Weiwei’s Beijing studio and assembled into a massive array on the gallery floor. I’m sure Chris would have been touched by the deep humanity and political intelligence underlying the form of the sculpture.
I’m also sure she would have found much in common with Weiwei’s views on living artfully: I think my stance and my way of life is my most important art, he said. I wonder what art Chris would have gone on to make, had she lived longer?
As I travel back on the train tonight, I’m left with two images: one, from a year ago, is of Kiefer’s huge lead “canvases” studded with diamonds; the other of Weiwei’s twisted metal rods being hammered back into shape. Despite their sorrowful weight, both images seem to presage some sort of hope.
I’ll try to hang on to that thought over the next few weeks as the anniversaries of Chris’s death on 3 December and of our wedding on 13/14 December come around, plus my birthday on 12 December and the Christmas holiday. I suspect it’s going to be a difficult time between now and New Year.
Captain Midnight’s super-dog powers are likely to be much in demand.