Royal Academy Turns to Kickstarter to Bring Ai Weiwei to London

World renowned Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei will be traveling to London. This is big news in and of itself, as Ai's passport has been held by the Chinese government since 2011, when he was detained for 81 days for a contested tax bill. Although he was released, his passport was not returned at the time. Last week, though, he posted the above photo of himself on Instagram with the message, "Today, I got my passport."

Ai has never let boundaries stop him, politically or even physically. He's created international site-specific works without setting foot outside China, including "@Large," his recent large-scale exhibition about incarceration at San Francisco's infamous prison turned national park, Alcatraz Island, that he planned and executed remotely. For his forthcoming exhibition, his first major institutional show in Britain which will open at the Royal Academy of Arts in London on September 19, 2015, Ai has also planned remotely, but this time, he'll actually be able to attend his own show in person. 

But because The Royal Academy is an independent charity, it's turned to Kickstarter to fund this monumental show, which will feature a courtyard of reassembled trees. With a goal of £100,000, the RA asks funders from around the world to "Join the global conversation about art and activism; transcend national boundaries as people all over the world help us make this happen." This is RA's first crowdfunding campaign. Tim Marlow, the RA's artistic director told The Guardian, that although using Kickstarter is a "gamble," “It is not a major risk for us and I’m quite confident it will happen. I think a lot of people will be interested in the idea of supporting Ai Weiwei and being a patron of the arts." 

The Guardian further explains another reason that the RA turned to Kickstarter was timing – the show was scheduled so quickly that there wasn't enough time for conventional fundraising. But did the RA underestimate the power of fundraising? The Kickstarter campaign still has about two weeks to go and has not yet hit its goal.  

Image by Ai Weiwei via Instagram