Ai Weiwei will travel to the UK for RA exhibition

Published 22 July 2015

After four years without travel, the artist has had his passport returned and will attend his landmark exhibition in our galleries.

  • 31 July 2015: Read an update to this story

    Ai Weiwei has regained his passport from the Chinese government and will be travelling to London for his landmark exhibition in September, it was confirmed today.

    Ai released the news in an Instagram post to his 111,000 followers this morning, with a picture of himself holding his passport and the words: “Today, I got my passport.”

    The artist’s passport has been held by the Chinese authorities since he was secretly detained in 2011 over a contested tax bill. Ai was released after 81 days on one year’s probation, but failed to have his passport returned to him. The artist since campaigned for his freedom by placing fresh flowers in the basket of his bicycle every day, outside his Beijing studio, and sharing pictures across social media.

    Today’s news comes just eight weeks before the opening of a major exhibition for the artist at the Royal Academy – one that the artist has been planning remotely from his Beijing studio with the show’s curators, Adrian Locke and Artistic Director of the Royal Academy, Tim Marlow.

    Tim Marlow said: “Ai Weiwei has just received his passport from the Chinese authorities and is now free to travel outside of China. This is wonderful news for Ai Weiwei, his family and for artists worldwide. We are delighted to announce that he will be joining us as we finalise the installation of his exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The exhibition opens on 19th September and will be the first major institutional presentation of his work in the UK.”

    Christopher Le Brun, President of the Royal Academy of Arts said: “The Royal Academy of Arts is, at its heart, a family of artists and we are immensely proud to have Ai Weiwei as an Honorary Royal Academician. We look forward to welcoming him to the RA.”

  • Ai Weiwei shares a photo of his passport on Instagram

    Ai Weiwei shares a photo of his passport on Instagram

  • The exhibition will present some of the artist’s most important works from the time he returned to China from the US in 1993 up to present day. The artist, who works in a diverse range of materials including marble, steel, glass and tea, will also be showing new works created specifically for the Royal Academy galleries.

    A Kickstarter campaign is also underway to bring a large-scale public installation to the Royal Academy’s Annenberg Courtyard. This site-specific work is to be the largest in the artist’s series of Tree installations, created from parts of dead trees collected from the mountains of southern China.


    Ai Weiwei is in the Main Galleries from 19 September — 13 December 2015.

    Read our curator’s blog series on planning the exhibition with Ai Weiwei.

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