Ai Weiwei's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold

October 10, 2019 - January 31, 2020
San Francisco, CA

Artwork

About

Heather James San Francisco presents Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold. These twelve sculptures depict the animals associated with the traditional Chinese zodiac. Ai Weiwei’s cycle references a European rendering of the zodiac animals designed by the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione. The original sculptures were built in the eighteenth century for an elaborate water-clock fountain at the Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Palace), a vast complex of gardens and pavilions on the outskirts of Beijing constructed under the reign of the Qing dynasty emperors and once accessible only to the elite of 18th-century Chinese society.In 1860 during the Second Opium War, the imperial gardens were ransacked, displacing the twelve zodiac heads. To this date only seven have been recovered. On one hand, the looted heads recall a low point in the country’s international profile, the beginning of China’s “century of national humiliation.” On the other hand, the spirit of nationalism and the value the objects represent in the art world have prompted calls for repatriation.For Ai Weiwei, the zodiac becomes fodder for the reinterpreting of cultural objects from his own historical knowledge and artistic liberty. Ai Weiwei reworks all twelve creatures. For the missing dragon, serpent, ram, rooster, and dog, the artist makes stylistic references to the existing heads, even as he introduces influences from past dynasties, as well as scientific realism. Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads engages issues of looting, repatriation, and cultural heritage while expanding upon ongoing themes in Ai Weiwei’s work concerning the “fake” and “copy” in relation to the original. As a conceptual artist sensitive to the craftspeople who create his works, the artist is able to “produce something that is a copy of an original, but not an exact copy—something that has its own sensitive layer of languages, which are different, and that bears the mark of our own time.”

As part of its ongoing mission to provide exceptional works of art to museums worldwide, Heather James Fine Art has collaborated with museums to loan and showcase this set including the Farnsworth Museum (2018), Tucson Museum of Art (2016), Portland Museum of Art (2015), and Phoenix Art Museum (2015). Ai Weiwei created two series of sculptures representing the animal symbols from the traditional Chinese zodiac: a monumental bronze edition for outdoor display and this, the smaller-scaled gold edition (made of bronze) for indoor display.

About the Artist

Ai Weiwei is an artist, architectural designer, curator, and social and cultural critic who has been exhibiting his work internationally since the late 1990s. Born in Beijing in 1957, he studied art and film in China before moving to New York in 1981, where he attended Cooper Union. Ai Weiwei remained in the United States for more than a decade, returning to China in 1997. Since that time, the artist has been instrumental in fostering China’s emerging art scene. Ai Weiwei’s artistic practice is inextricably linked with cultural engagement and willingly crosses barriers between different media—cultural, artistic, and social. In 2008, the artist garnered widespread attention for his collaboration with the architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron for the “Bird’s Nest”, China’s National Olympic Stadium. However, it was perhaps his detention from 2011 until August 2015 by the Chinese government which brought his views to the greatest audience. Ai Weiwei has recently left China and is now in Germany. He continues to create new works and uses his significant international profile to promote artistic and personal freedom.

Artists

  • weiwei-HJSF1
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Heather James Fine Art – San Francisco
  • weiwei-HJSF2
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Heather James Fine Art – San Francisco
  • weiwei-HJSF3
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Heather James Fine Art – San Francisco
  • weiwei-HJSF5
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Heather James Fine Art – San Francisco
  • weiwei-HJSF6
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Heather James Fine Art – San Francisco
  • weiwei-Farnsworth2
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Farnsworth Art Museum (March 24 – December 30, 2018)
  • weiwei-Jackson1
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Heather James Fine Art – Jackson Hole (June 20 – September 30, 2017)
  • weiwei_install6-HJPD
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Heather James Fine Art – Palm Desert (November 25, 2016 – May 30, 2017)
  • weiwei-Nevada1
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Nevada Museum of Art (July 23 – October 23, 2016)
  • weiwei_tucson
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Tucson Museum of Art (February 13 – June 26, 2016)
  • 2015-10_Ai_Weiwei_Zodiac_Heads_004
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Phoenix Art Museum (October 3, 2015 – January 31, 2016)
  • AiWeiwei_Zodiac_Portland_1
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Portland Art Museum (May – September 13, 2015)
  • Weiwei_install2
    Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold, 2010, bronze with gold patina Installation at Palm Springs Art Museum (December 20, 2014 – May 31, 2015)