• Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals

    Date posted: December 15, 2011 Author: jolanta

    The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will display the first major public sculpture by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, titled Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. The installation will comprise twelve monumental bronze animal heads that are re-creations of the famous traditional zodiac sculptures that once adorned the fountain clock of Yuan Ming Yuan, the Old Summer Palace, located just outside Beijing. For LACMA’s presentation, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads will be on view outdoors just east of the museum’s Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion. Cast around 1750, the original animal heads were located at the Zodiac fountain in Yuan Ming Yuan’s European-style gardens, which were designed by two European Jesuit priests in the eighteenth century.

    “Ai stimulates dialogue about the fate of artworks that exist within dynamic and sometimes volatile cultural and political settings.”

     

    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, 2011/2012. Installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Museum of Art.

     

    Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art

    The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will display the first major public sculpture by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, titled Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. The installation will comprise twelve monumental bronze animal heads that are re-creations of the famous traditional zodiac sculptures that once adorned the fountain clock of Yuan Ming Yuan, the Old Summer Palace, located just outside Beijing. For LACMA’s presentation, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads will be on view outdoors just east of the museum’s Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion. Cast around 1750, the original animal heads were located at the Zodiac fountain in Yuan Ming Yuan’s European-style gardens, which were designed by two European Jesuit priests in the eighteenth century. In 1860, British and French troops looted the heads amid the destruction of Yuan Ming Yuan during the Second Opium War. Today, seven heads—the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, horse, monkey, and boar—have been found; the location of the other five— dragon, snake, goat, rooster, and dog—are unknown. In reinterpreting these objects on an oversized scale, Ai stimulates dialogue about the fate of artworks that exist within dynamic and sometimes volatile cultural and political settings, while extending his ongoing exploration of the “fake” and the copy in relation to the original.

    For Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, the twelve heads are cast in bronze and positioned on bronze bases, with each head and base together standing approximately ten feet high. Each head weighs approximately 800 pounds and measures approximately four feet high and three feet wide. Ai Weiwei is known for his engagement with Chinese history as a shifting site rather than a static body of knowledge. His adaptations of objects from the Chinese material canon, such as furniture and ceramic objects, are known for their subversive wit, twisting traditional meanings toward new purposes often by destroying the artifact in its original, pure state. At LACMA, Ai’s investigation of the historical object finds great resonance within the museum’s encyclopedic collection, which includes Chinese art from the Neolithic to the Qing Dynasty period. Among the museum’s collection are four jade zodiac animals, contemporaneous with the Yuan Ming Yuan gardens, which will be concurrently on view with Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads beginning in December 2011. Although of much smaller scale, each jade piece is in the shape of an animal head on top of a human body, just like those that originally adorned the Zodiac fountain.

    Prior to LACMA’s presentation, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads debuted at the São Paulo Biennial and then began its international tour, traveling to the Pulitzer Fountain at the Grand Army Plaza in Central Park, New York and to the Somerset House in London. Following its display at LACMA, the work will also be on view in Houston, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.

    Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from August 20, 2011- February 12, 2012.

    This article was published by NY Arts Magazine, 2011. NY Arts Magazine is published by Abraham Lubelski. Sponsored by Broadway Gallery, NYC and World Art Media.

     


     

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