The exceptional and monumental installation of trees in the Royal Academy’s historic courtyard sets the scene for a very exciting autumn in London. These are the weeks when the city shows its best clothes – if the sun is out: Frieze Art Fair is around the corner, auction houses are busy getting ready for the hottest weeks of the year, Kickstarter becomes the Uber of the art world, replacing patrons and sponsors, making new projects possible. The scene is vibrant. Boundaries will be crossed.
The artwork of Ai Weiwei was made possible thanks to the museum’s first ever Kickstarter campaign, showing how disruptive products can change the rules of the game, even when it comes to sponsorship.
Launched in order to raise the £100,000 – necessary to transport and install the old trees, which began their life in the mountains of southern China – the campaign was a huge success raising more funds than was ever anticipated. Not a big surprise, considering the attention the media paid to Ai Weiwei.
Much has happened in the life of the renowned Chinese artist since his breath-taking Sunflower Seeds – an installation of 100 million hand-crafted porcelain seeds – covered the floors of the Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern in 2010. One of the most memorable and poetic installations of the last ten years, in my opinion.
Not only was he detained for 81 days without charge by the Chinese authorities over a contested tax bill, but he has also been unable to travel for the last four years. In July this year, he was finally handed back his passport, enabling him to come to London for the opening of his show. His exceptional work is on show at the RAA until 13 December.