The Royal Academy of the Arts is set to launch its first crowdfunding campaign, in the hope that it will raise enough to bring eight ancient trees from Southern China for an exhibition.
The trees are part of an installation by Chinse artist Ai Weiwei. In order to create the exhibition, Weiwei used parts of trees that died naturally on the Chinsese mountains, and were then sold as decorative pieces in the markets of Jingdezhen. He pieced the parts together in order to create eight complete trees, describing the process as “just like trying to imagine what the tree looked like”.
However, the exhibition will cost around £100,000, an amount that the RA could not fund due to he short notice; so they are turning to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to ask the public for the money to allow the exhibition to go ahead.
“It is an experiment and a gamble, but a sensible one,” said Tim Marlow, the RA’s artistic director. “If it comes off, brilliant; if not then it was worth trying.”
In the UK, Ai Weiwei is best known for his installation that filled the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with 100 million ceramic sunflower seeds.
However, internationally Weiwei is well known for quite different reasons. He has had several run-ins with the Chinese government; in 2009 he needed surgery after being punched by a Chinese policeman in Chengdu, and in 2011, he was arrested without charge and held in custody for 81 days for exposing those who were responsible for the deaths of schoolchildren buried alive in the Sichuan earthquake. He is still not able to get a passport, and the RA believe it very unlikely that he will be able to come to London to see his show.
The RA are hoping that, through crowdfunding, the public will be able to show their support for the artist and his work. If the campaign proves successful, Marlow said he could see the fundraising method being used again; although it is unlikely that it would become a replacement for corporate sponsorship.