About this project
“An act is worth a million thoughts.” Ai Weiwei
The Royal Academy of Arts wants to bring a significant sculpture by visionary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to the RA Courtyard in the heart of London from September to December 2015. Be a part of a unique opportunity to support the work of Ai Weiwei and collaborate with Britain’s greatest independent artist-run organisation. Join the global conversation about art and activism; transcend national boundaries as people all over the world help us make this happen.
Who are we?
The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) brings major exhibitions to Piccadilly, in the heart of London. A unique, artist-run organisation which was founded by a mandate from King George in 1768, the RA is an independent charity which provides a clear strong voice for art and artists, and which runs the only free three-year postgraduate art school in the UK.
What do we want to do?
We want to enable a huge site-specific installation in the RA’s outdoor courtyard off Piccadilly, which will be free to enjoy by all visitors. The eight enormous Tree sculptures are created by one of China’s most visionary and provocative artists, Ai Weiwei. Ai’s work is brave, provocative and visionary, and gives voice not only to his own beliefs, but also those who have no voice.
What will your contribution support?
We need to raise £100,000 to enable us to bring this magnificent work to the Annenberg Courtyard, where it can be enjoyed by all visitors for free. We want you to be a part of a collaborative approach to making this happen, and a unique opportunity to build a connection to the work of Ai Weiwei and the Royal Academy of Arts. We will involve you in the story every step of the way, and acknowledge your generous support in the prestigious RA galleries. Ai Weiwei’s work transcends global boundaries and so will this project: even if you are not able to visit the work in London we will connect you with the exhibition virtually.
About our Ai Weiwei exhibition
This free outdoor installation will be on display simultaneously with an exhibition of Ai Weiwei’s work in the RA’s Main Galleries. From September to December 2015 the RA is bringing the first major institutional survey of Ai’s work to Britain, celebrating over two decades of his extraordinary career. The exhibition has been curated in collaboration with Ai Weiwei from his studio in Beijing, as he is not permitted to leave China, proving that geographical boundaries do not necessarily have to limit something of such huge artistic importance. The RA will present some of his most important works from the time he returned to China from the US in 1993 right up to the present day, as well as new works created specifically for our galleries.
About Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most influential artists and a major cultural phenomenon. His work is brave, provocative and visionary, and gives voice not only to his own beliefs, but also those who have no voice. Particularly powerful are his pieces which address the Chinese government’s response to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Ai became widely known in Britain after his sunflower seeds installation at Tate Modern in 2010, while globally is renowned for his activism, and works which embody political statements about creative freedom, censorship and human rights. He often re-appropriates objects to give them new cultural meaning, such as painting precious 2000-year-old vases to resemble cheap, modern-day containers, examining notions of cultural heritage, authenticity and the value of art.
About the Tree project
Our Kickstarter campaign will enable a huge, site-specific work in the outdoor courtyard in front of the gallery. Eight enormous trees created by Ai Weiwei – each around seven metres tall, clustered around a marble couch – will create an environment in the centre of London for the public to explore. Ai Weiwei began his Tree series in 2009, and the RA’s eight-part work will be the largest to date. Ai purchases parts of dead trees, collected on the mountains of southern China, and brings them to his studio in Beijing where skilled carpenters assemble them into ‘complete’ trees. These impressive artificial constructions have been interpreted as a commentary on the Chinese nation, in which geographically and culturally diverse peoples have been brought together to form ‘One China’.
Putting an exhibition together of this magnitude is a hugely expensive enterprise and the RA always has to raise funds in order to realise monumental exhibitions of this scale. Kickstarter particularly embodies the spirit of individual collaboration on a global scale that is central to Ai Weiwei’s art and activism. We want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to be personally and directly involved with Ai Weiwei’s London exhibition through support of the Tree series that represents the unity of people across time and national boundaries.
Pledge today and you can enjoy one of many rewards.
Project image: Ai Weiwei, Tree, 2009-10, 2015. Installation view, neugerriemschneider, Berlin 2011. Tree sections and steel, dimensions variable. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. Photo courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin. Photography: Jens Ziehe © Ai Weiwei.
With thanks to Harry Pearce at Pentagram for the beautiful images taken in Ai Weiwei's Beijing studio, and Red Photographic for helping us capture people with their favourite 'Ai Weiwei-isms'.
Risks and challenges
If we fail to meet the target we will be short of funds but the installation will go ahead. We are confident that there are enough people out there who share our desire to bring Ai Weiwei’s Tree series to London to enable us to be successful.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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