Asia Blog: China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam

Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads”

Posted in Art, China by Elliott Back on May 15th, 2011.

Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissent artist who has been detained for over two months now, premiered a new public exhibition at the Pulitzer Fountain outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. The Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads consists of twelve bronzes representing the traditional Chinese birth-year animals, arranged on poles in a semi-circle. The menagerie includes: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, boar.

There is a backstory to the art; Ai Weiwei’s heads are larger versions of a piece designed in the 18th century by European Jesuits for the Manchu emperor Qianlong. They were parts of a famous fountain clock in the Summer Palace. However, the heads were all looted by the British and French during the Second Opium War in 1860. To date, the Chinese government has retrieved five of them (ox, tiger, horse, monkey and boar), two more (rat and rabbit) were auctioned recently at Christies to an unsympathetic patriot who refused to pay. The other five remain lost, and may never be recovered.

Here is a video of NYC city mayor Bloomberg giving opening remarks to the exhibit:

NYC opens Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. –

You can check out all of my photographs in this Flickr gallery. There is also some good secondary coverage of the exhibit:

This entry was posted on Sunday, May 15th, 2011 at 3:00 pm and is tagged with . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback.

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