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Be a part of an unprecedented exhibition by artist and activist Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz Island. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on June 12, 2014.

Be a part of an unprecedented exhibition by artist and activist Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz Island.

About this project

About the Exhibition

"When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill."          — Ai Weiwei

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is internationally renowned both as a maker of potent and provocative art and as a passionate advocate for human rights and freedom of expression. His art and ideas find a compelling new context in this exhibition of works created specifically for Alcatraz — a 19th-century military fortress, a notorious federal penitentiary, a site of Native American heritage and protest, and now one of America’s most visited national parks.

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz will be on view September 27, 2014, through April 26, 2015. Ai’s sculpture, sound, and mixed-media works will occupy several spaces on Alcatraz, including areas that are usually off limits to the public but will be open to visitors throughout the run of this unprecedented exhibition. Revealing unexpected perspectives on Alcatraz and its layered legacy, @Large prompts visitors to consider the implications of incarceration and the possibilities of art as an act of conscience.

For Ai, these are not just artistic themes; they are facts of life. A vocal critic of the Chinese government, Ai was secretly detained by Chinese authorities for 81 days in 2011 on charges of tax evasion, and is still not permitted to leave China. As a result, Ai is currently unable to visit Alcatraz. He is developing the artwork for the exhibition from his studio in Beijing, with the help of the FOR-SITE Foundation and a team of collaborators from organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz is presented by the FOR-SITE Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Learn more at AiWeiweiAlcatraz.org.

Ai Weiwei in the elevator when taken into custody by the police, Sichuan, China, 2009; photo courtesy the artist
Ai Weiwei in the elevator when taken into custody by the police, Sichuan, China, 2009; photo courtesy the artist

What Will Contributions Support?

Your donation will directly support FOR-SITE’s Art Guide program. We’re expecting more than half a million people to see @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, which will be open to all visitors to this national park. To make sure every one of those people has the best experience possible, we’re hiring and training a team of Art Guides to answer visitors’ questions and help people understand and connect with Ai Weiwei’s work. A contemporary take on the traditional museum docent model, Art Guides move freely throughout the exhibition, engaging visitors in one-on-one discussion about the art. This structure fosters a more personal experience of the exhibition, encouraging visitors to perceive and respond to the artwork through their own unique lens.

In addition to working directly with visitors on the island, the Art Guides will make the exhibition come alive for those unable to visit Alcatraz via @Large’s social media presence. Through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the Art Guides will provide ways for people around the world to experience this extraordinary exhibition.

Why Kickstarter?

@Large is more than just an art exhibition — it is a platform for examining on a deep and personal level the issues of human rights and freedom of expression. These are issues that concern the global community, and so FOR-SITE is taking to Kickstarter to amplify our voice and carry our call for support to that global community. Even more than its global reach, Kickstarter embodies the spirit of direct communication that is central to Ai Weiwei’s art and activism. Your pledge to the project will help FOR-SITE ensure that @Large and the themes it illuminates are accessible to the broadest audience possible.

What If We Exceed Our Kickstarter Goal? 

That would be wonderful! Our goal of $75,000 is only a portion of the cost of the Art Guide program, so exceeding this amount would contribute to a more robust presence of Art Guides on Alcatraz Island.

About Ai Weiwei 

Born in 1957, Ai Weiwei is a Beijing-based artist and activist whose work encompasses sculpture, installation, photography, film, architecture, curation, and social criticism. His art has been featured in major solo exhibitions including Evidence, on view at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, through July 7, 2014; Ai Weiwei: According to What?, organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, in 2012, on view at the Brooklyn Museum through August 10, 2014; Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads at the Pulitzer Fountain, New York, 2011; and Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern, London, 2010. Ai collaborated with architects Herzog & de Meuron on the design for the 2012 Serpentine Pavilion in London and on the “bird’s nest” stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Among numerous awards and honors, Ai received the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation in 2012. 

Ai Weiwei at his studio in Beijing, 2014; photo: Jan Stürmann
Ai Weiwei at his studio in Beijing, 2014; photo: Jan Stürmann

About Alcatraz

Beyond its legacy as a world-famous former military and federal penitentiary that once held notorious criminals like Al Capone, Alcatraz has undergone numerous incarnations that have contributed to its unique and deeply layered history. First inhabited by native peoples who arrived more than 10,000 years ago, the island was recognized for its strategic value as a military fortress in the Civil War era, and later catalyzed the Native American Red Power movement with the revolutionary 18-month occupation by the Indians of All Tribes from 1969 to 1971. Today, it stands as one of the country’s most popular national park sites and visitor destinations, attracting more than 1.4 million people each year. The island is also the site of the West Coast’s first lighthouse (since replaced by the current lighthouse) and home to gardens, tide pools, nesting birds, and unrivaled views of San Francisco Bay.

Alcatraz Island; photo: Ben Fash
Alcatraz Island; photo: Ben Fash

 About the FOR-SITE Foundation

Established in 2003 by Cheryl Haines, the FOR-SITE Foundation is dedicated to the creation, understanding, and presentation of art about place through commissions, artist residencies, and educational programs. Since 2008, FOR-SITE has broken new ground and provided a model for engaging the public through artistic collaborations on national park land. FOR-SITE’s recent projects include International Orange, a group show at Fort Point featuring work by leading contemporary artists to mark the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge; a series of installations by Andy Goldsworthy in the Presidio of San Francisco; and the acclaimed Presidio Habitats exhibition, for which artists and designers including Ai Weiwei and others created animal habitats throughout the park. For more information, visit for-site.org.

About the Project Partners

The National Park Service (NPS) is a federal agency within the US Department of the Interior charged with managing the preservation and public use of America’s most significant natural, scenic, historic, and cultural treasures. The NPS manages the Golden Gate National Parks, as well as 400 other park sites across the United States. For more information, visit nps.gov/goga.

The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is the nonprofit membership organization created to preserve the Golden Gate National Parks, enhance the experiences of park visitors, and build a community dedicated to conserving the parks for the future. The Conservancy is an authorized “cooperating association” of the National Park Service, and is one of more than 70 such nonprofit organizations working with national parks around the country. To learn more, visit parksconservancy.org.

Risks and challenges

Preparations to present "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz" are on schedule, and the exhibition will open as planned on September 27. If we don’t meet our Kickstarter goal, FOR-SITE will still offer an Art Guide program. However, we would have to scale back the scope of the project, decreasing the number of Art Guide staff and their hours of availability. We want everyone who visits "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz" to walk away feeling that they were able to connect with Ai Weiwei’s work on a personal and meaningful level. Please help us achieve this important goal by pledging your support for the Art Guide program!

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    Set of downloadable "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz" postcards

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    Softcover book produced in conjunction with "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz," plus all rewards listed above. The richly illustrated, full-color book brings together newly commissioned essays from leading activists, curators, and humanitarians, extensive photographic documentation, and an array of archival materials, serving as a comprehensive record of the exhibition and providing readers with an expanded political and historical context for the project.

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    Hardcover book produced in conjunction with "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz," plus all rewards listed above. The hardcover book includes all of the content of the softcover, as well as exhibition installation photos and other material not included in the softcover edition.

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    Conversation with an Art Guide about the artwork of your choosing (artwork to be selected after the opening), plus all rewards listed above. Backers unable to visit Alcatraz may claim this reward via Skype. Wifi on Alcatraz can be spotty, so the Skype conversation may take place off-island. Conversation with the Art Guide is available throughout the run of the exhibition (estimated delivery for additional rewards: January 2015).

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    Invitation for one (1) to Party on the Rock, the exclusive exhibition preview on September 26, 2014 featuring guided, early-access tours of the exhibition, plus all rewards listed above (estimated delivery for additional rewards: January 2015). You must supply your own transportation to San Francisco for this reward.

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    Invitation for two (2) to Party on the Rock, the exclusive exhibition preview on September 26, 2014 featuring guided, early-access tours of the exhibition, plus all rewards listed above (estimated delivery for additional rewards: January 2015). You must supply your own transportation to San Francisco for this reward.

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Funding period

- (30 days)