Artlyst has walked the distance with Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor today. The artists have joined forces for a walk across London as they strode down London’s Piccadilly at the beginning of an eight-mile journey to show solidarity with refugees around the world.
“This is a walk of compassion, a walk together as if we were walking to the studio,” Kapoor told the throng of press. “Peaceful. Quiet. Creative.”
Image: Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor set off on their march from the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Photo: P A Black © 2015.
The crowds assembled before the pair set off from the Royal Academy of Arts joined by around 100 kindred spirits – including Artlyst – and a large number of journalists that actually managed the distance. The artists destination was Kapoor’s Orbit Tower in the Olympic park at Stratford. On the walk Artlyst asked Sir Anish Kapoor about his new found friend and collaborator and how the two artists had become friends.
Image: Ai Weiwei was also documenting the occasion. Photo: P A Black © 2015.
“I dedicated a work to Ai Weiwei, a few years ago then he made a video, Gangnam style, then I made one. The moment his was banned – there was a solidarity of action to show that his video was still online. We only met recently, only last week, and feel an empathy towards this cause – in that I’ve been active in it for some time – I asked Weiwei to join me, and here we are together!”
Image: Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor hand out refreshments on the journey. Photo: P A Black © 2015.
Artyst walked for a while with the Chinese dissident artist, who recently regained his passport from the Chinese government; finally enabling the artist to actually take part in the installation of Ai’s survey at the Royal Academy of Art – and his inclusion as a Royal Academician – probably the pinnacle of the artist’s career. When asked about the Chinese economic crisis and its potential influence on Chinese contemporary art, Ai replied with a wry smile “I would like to enjoy the walk.”
The artist added: “We are trying to do positive action: by opening a certain spirit, a certain poetic space, we can at least hope to change how we think about the problem [The refugee crisis].” The artist concluded: “Let us show the world we are involved.”
The walk took the artists through Whitehall and St Paul’s, heading east to Brick Lane and Mile End Road culminating at Kapoor’s Orbit Tower in the Olympic park at Stratford, where the weary yet satisfied throng donated their blankets worn as a mark of solidarity with refugees during the current crisis.
Image: Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor cross London in support of refugees. Photo: P A Black © 2015.
At the end of the journey we asked Sir Anish Kapoor about his feelings at the culmination of the two artists eight mile ‘art action’ in support of refugees:
“Oh it felt good! A bit of effort always invigorates, but we’ve managed to – I hope – make a little bridge from symbolic action to something meaningful, something heartfelt, something in empathy, and I think that’s what we were after to start with.”
Image: Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor: Ai’s ‘signature gesture’ In front of Kapoor’s infamous tower. Photo P A Black © 2015.
A slightly tired Ai Weiwei added: “This is a beautiful day, these are beautiful people, and we crossed the city which is amazing – and for me it was really educational.”
The pair concluded their walk with Ai’s signature gesture, in this instance in front of Kapoor’s Orbit Tower in the Olympic park.
Lead image: Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor cross London in support of refugees. Photo: P A Black © 2015
Words: Paul Black with Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor, photos P A Black © 2015