Undercover Art

Just come back from a terrific weekend in London, grabbing as much art as we could see. So that’s Rembrandt, turner, Anselm Kiefer and Ming. But that’s not all. We went to two other exhibitions which were much more subsversive – Grayson Perry at the National Portrait Gallery, and Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace. Perry’s is Who Are you?, reflections on identity based on the interviews shown in his TV series. He talks to people, selects from a wide range of past artistic models what he thinks will suit that particular subject, and then smuggles it in, alongside the conventional portraits of generals and queens. Weiwei’s is even more surprising, partly because it was done with the active support of the owner. Blenheim Palace is the Churchill stately home, ornate and stuffy, stacked with antique furniture and solemn portraits, but if you keep your eyes peeled as you wander round you find odd little details which don’t quite fit – ancient Chinese pots, repainted in bright colours, a video camera that looks as if it’s made of marble, a wheel made of wooden stools wedged together. This is art with a sense of humour, an affirmation that it’s fun to be alive.