Yorkshire Sculpture Park has a strange new tree. Solid yet graceful, inspired by the street vendors of Jingdezhen in southern China, who sell wood for its beauty, “Iron Tree” (2013) is a collection of fragments held together with bolts. It seems to have been in the wars, this tree, much like its maker Ai Weiwei.
Planted in front of the park’s newly restored chapel, the six-metre high sculpture is the first thing you see in an exhibition the Chinese artist has worked on from afar. Ai can’t travel outside China – his passport was confiscated after his arrest in 2011 – so plans and photographs have bounced across the net. As a result, 45 of the 1,001 Qing dynasty chairs Ai used to represent Chinese citizens at the 2007 Documenta in Kassel have been positioned inside the chapel, along with three other works. Visitors are invited to sit on the chairs, contemplating their scuff marks and their history.