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Attention underfoot as you step on life-size bombs and missiles at Imperial War Museums

11 August 2020

Imperial War Museums London is now open to the public again following several months of closure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It welcomes visitors with its new Refugee season exhibition and a truly stunning artwork by Ai Weiwei in the atrium: A ‘History of Bombs’, printed on Harlequin Clarity vinyl flooring.

Upon entering the majestic building, visitors are met with the wide-open space of the atrium, which has never formed part of the museum’s exhibition before, let alone been dedicated to one artist’s vision entirely. This year however, internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei’s ‘History of Bombs’ adorns the entire 900m² large space.

Full view of the IWM atrium, where Weiwei's artwork is on display using Harlequin Clarity vinyl floor

© IWM Ai Weiwei’s new commission History of Bombs forms part of IWM’s Refugees season and will be on display at IWM London from 1 August 2020 – 24 May 2021.

The site-specific artwork features a two-dimensional rendering in exacting detail of fifty true to scale bombs and missiles from Russia, the US, UK, Germany, Italy and Israel. This special commission is part of the Chinese dissident’s exploration into politics and power and the ways in which contemporary conflicts and disasters impact on human life.

Dating from 1911 to 2019 these life-size bombs are mapped across the main hall in a vast and impressive floor covering. The IWM entrusted Harlequin with the task of supplying, printing and installing the vinyl floor to bring Weiwei’s vision to life.

Top view of the IWM London's atrium, where Ai Weiwei's "History of Bombs" is on display using printed Harlequin Clarity vinyl floor

© Harlequin. View of Ai Weiwei’s artwork, printed on Harlequin Clarity

Rebecca Newell, Head of Art at the IWM, spoke about the realisation of the project in collaboration with Harlequin:

The print was applied to the underside of the 2mm thick, transparent vinyl floor, giving the artwork a protective wear coat capable of withstanding very high foot traffic, vital in busy venues such as museums.

The polished concrete subfloor was boarded and protected with isolator membrane and the vinyl drops were cold welded to give a seamless finish. Harlequin’s installation team worked on the impressive installation, making sure that every one of the 22 drops of vinyl spanning 44 linear metres with multiple images, shading and colours all matched up perfectly.

Detail of Ai Weiwei's artwork on printed Harlequin Clarity vinyl floor

© Harlequin. Precision and finesse was required to line up the details of each bomb

History of Bombs is now on display at IWM London until 24th May 2021. You can book a timeslot for your free of charge visit on the IWM’s website.