Royal Academy Turns to Crowdfunding To Bring Ai Weiwei’s Trees to London

The Royal Academy show will include eight of Ai Weiwei's huge 'tree sculptures.' Photo: Ai Wei Wei/Royal Academy

London’s Royal Academy of Arts has turned to crowdfunding to raise £100,000 ($156,358) to bring eight Ai Weiwei tree sculptures to the English capital. The trees will be featured as a part of the artist’s upcoming show at the RA this autumn.

To incentivize donors to contribute towards the project, the RA is offering rewards including limited edition prints and private tours.

Ai Weiwei in his studio courtyard, Beijing, China.Photograph: Jonathan Browning/Rex Features via the Guardian.

Ai Weiwei is still not able to travel abroad, and may not be able to attend his own opening in London in the fall.
Photograph: Jonathan Browning/Rex Features via the Guardian.

The RA’s artistic director Tim Marlow admitted the strategy is “an experiment, and a gamble, but it’s a sensible one,” the Guardian reported. “If it comes off, brilliant; if not then it was worth trying,” he said.

Marlow explained that the museum decided to try a kickstarter campaign because the exhibition was planned on short notice, leaving little time for traditional fundraising strategies.

“I think a lot of people will be interested in the idea of supporting Ai Weiwei and being a patron of the arts,” he said, optimistically.

The Royal Academy, London Photo: Bengt Oberger via Wikimedia Commons

The Royal Academy, London
Photo: Bengt Oberger via Wikimedia Commons

Ai’s tree artworks consist of parts of dead trees which the artist sources from the markets of Jigdezhen, southern China, where the wood pieces are traditionally sold as decorative artifacts. Ai reassembles the mismatching parts in his Beijing studio to complete the works.

The artist compared the production of the works with “trying to imagine what the tree looked like.”

If the RA can raise the funds, the institution plans to install the works in its London courtyard, to resemble a makeshift forest. The eight trees would constitute the largest number of works from the series ever publicly exhibited.

At the time of writing, the campaign has already raised £19,612 from 309 donors.

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