Renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei (b. 1957) took as his inspiration for his twelve Chinese zodiac bronze sculptures from those that once graced the Qing dynasty fountain, in an eighteenth-century imperial retreat outside Beijing. Like other ornate objects, the original pieces were looted by the British and French troops in the Second Opium War in 1860. Viewed as a symbol of “cultural theft”, Weiwei re-created the gold-plated sculptures in 2010 as a subversive commentary on the nature of looting and repatriation.
An artist, architectural designer and social activist, Ai Weiwei's works employ a wide range of media. He has been openly critical of the Chinese government's stance on democracy and record of human rights violations, investigated government corruption and cover-ups, and was held for 81 days at an undisclosed location in 2011. Following his four years of house arrest, Chinese authorities recently returned his passport to Ai Weiwei, whereupon he left China for Germany, where he is currently staying in anticipation of the opening of a new exhibition. Ai’s son and wife have been living there.
The Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads exhibition will also include eighteenth-century Chinese bronze works from Phoenix Art Museum’s collection. Curated by Dr. Janet Baker.
What's your zodiac? Share your visit with Ai Weiwei's #zodiacheads to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! Photography is permitted in this exhibition.
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Ai Weiwei Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads
Documentary trailer by Alison Klayman, 2010
Copyright Alison Klayman and AW Asia, New York. All rights reserved
This exhibition is organized by Phoenix Art Museum.