The first Weiwei artwork at the academy which welcomes visitors is the forest of dead trees which has been installed in the courtyard to the Royal Academy, following the backing of 1 300 Kickstarter, who contributed £123 000 to the installation. Read more about the project here.

The retrospective, which was co-curated by Ai, is an outstanding insight into the art of a contemporary icon, who, at times, has been regarded and perhaps even criticised for being seen as a media figure rather than an artist. In the retrospective, Weiwei's art and experiences including being imprisoned in China and living in the Western world, have not been separated, instead, they compliment each other.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 15.31.24 Ai Weiwei, Straight, 2008–12.
Image via Royal Academy/ Ai Weiwei

Straight, which is comprised of rusting steel rods, weighs 96 tons, and is made from the metal which was recovered from schools destroyed by an earthquake in Sichuan province in which more than 5 000 students were killed. Incredibly, Weiwei straightened each bar, by hand, in his studio. The piece highlights the cover up led by the government concerning how many buildings in the province were not prepared for earthquakes, and were built poorly.

Below is a selection of highlights from the exhibition, including Weiwei's iconic Neolithic vases covered in vivid, industrial paints.

hrwqjcos1pxde3chnbts Ai Weiwei,, Free Speech Puzzle, 2014.
Hand painted porcelain in the Qing dynasty imperial style
Image via Royal Academy/ Ai Weiwei

qtpceet71x8twk5d1u4t Ai Weiwei, Coloured Vases, 2006.
Neolithic vases (5000-3000 BC) with industrial paint
Image via Royal Academy/ Ai Weiwei

flba0ckbfloyxgvnmcxu Ai Weiwei, Surveillance Camera, 2010
Image via Royal Academy/ Ai Weiwei

The final room contains six iron boxes with peepholes, intended for the viewer to look through, each with fibre-glass figures, which portray moments from the artist's imprisonment in 2011, in which he was illegally detained for 81 days in China.

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