Cui’s acrylics are what today’s megacities would look like if the characters of the 1960s cartoon The Jetsons had free reign over architecture. The skyscrapers are so tall that it would make no difference to a street-level observer to make them any taller. There is no sky anyhow and the structures have no Earthly foundations, either. There are stripes and checks on the canvas edge for scale, but they have no key. It’s a futuristic vision, except Abu Dhabi and Shanghai already built it.
But it’s the prehistoric Flintstones – the jet family’s contemporaries in the animation studio – that get the final word because ‘architectural’ models of giant animals dominate the canvases and the buildings. There’s a mega-giraffe, a skyscraper-sized rooster, a cathedral-like rabbit. Dino, the Flintstones’ pet dinosaur, must be close by too.
For all the liberties Cui takes with architectural conventions, this attempt to bring a simulacrum of the natural world together with the megapolis is unsustainable. The exhibition thus feels like a lecture on climate change sponsored by the designers of The Line, Saudi Arabia’s dystopian plan for a 110-mile linear city in the desert.