Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” on view in Prage

Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” on view in Prage

PanARMENIAN.Net - Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze series is now on view at the National Gallery in Prague. This is the first time the Zodiac Heads is being exhibited at a museum in Eastern Europe. Ai is currently in Prague to coincide with the inaugural events and this marks a historic occasion for the artist’s first viewing of the work on display, Art Daily reports.

The Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze and Gold series has been touring internationally to great fanfare since its official debut at the historic Pulitzer Fountain in New York City in May 2011. Remarkably Ai was not able see the Zodiac Heads on exhibit during the years this body of work has been touring the globe; the artist was detained in April 2011, a month before the inaugural presentation of the Bronze series in New York. Ai was then held in secret captivity for 81 days. Upon his release in late June 2011, the Chinese government confiscated his passport and Ai was unable to leave China for more than four years. Ai received his passport back in July 2015 and has been travelling abroad since. His visit to Prague to see the Zodiac Heads in person is a significant moment for the artist.

Additionally Ai is using the Zodiac Heads at the National Gallery in Prague to make a political statement about the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis: he has wrapped the twelve monumental animal sculptures in the protective gold foil currently being used by Syrian refugees in Lesbos, Greece. Ai commented to the press: “This is gold foil which is used [by the Syrian refugees in] crisis to protect their body heat. In Lesbos, Greece, when the refuges [arrive] on the land they use the foil to cover their bodies because they are in very poor condition.” Ai has spent recent weeks on the island of Lesbos documenting the Syrian refugees and reporting to the international press. He has also been using his Twitter account to disseminate images while keeping the media informed of the difficult situation there.

During Ai’s visit to Prague there will several opportunities for fans and supporters to meet the artist in addition to the opening presentation of the Zodiac Heads. On February 5th the National Gallery and the Václav Havel Library have co-organized a round table moderated by the National Gallery’s director, Jiří Fajt, on the premises of the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University in Prague. On Saturday, February 6th the National Gallery will screen the Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012) documentary which will be followed by and artist’s discussion with the audience.

The Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze and Gold series has established itself as the most publically viewed sculpture project in the history of global contemporary art having been exhibited or scheduled for exhibition at 35 international venues and counting. The Zodiac Heads have been seen by millions of art lovers worldwide since the launch of this body of work nearly five years ago, putting this particular exhibition at the forefront of the most popularly viewed artwork in the history of global contemporary art and surpassing exhibitions such as a “The Family of Man,” a ground-breaking post-war photography exhibition that opened in January 1955 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” a wildly popular exhibition the was seen at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2011 and the V&A, London in 2014.

The Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze and Gold series has been exhibited (or is scheduled to exhibit) at 35 locations around the globe including Sao Paulo, Brazil; London, England; Los Angeles, CA; Taipei, Taiwan; Houston, TX; Kyiv, Ukraine; Washington, D.C.; Toronto, Canada; Miami, FL; Cleveland, OH; Mexico City, Mexico; Princeton, NJ; Chicago, IL; Jackson Hole, WY; Malaga, Spain; and Paris, France; Montreal, Canada; Sand Diego, CA; East Hampton, NY; Moscow, Russia; Dallas, TX; Berlin, Germany; Oxfordshire, England; Palm Springs, CA; Skovvej, Denmark; Portland, OR; Phoenix, AZ; Melbourne, Australia; and Sacramento, CA. Upcoming venues include Boston, MA; Pittsburgh, PA; Tucson, AZ; and Reno, Nevada, Brüssels; Belgium; Vienna, Austria; and Helsinki, Finland.

Designed in the 18th century by two European Jesuits serving in the court of the Qing dynasty [1644 – 1911] Emperor Qianlong, the twelve zodiac animal heads originally adorned a fountain and functioned as a clock in the magnificent European gardens of the Yuanming Yuan. In 1860, the Old Summer Palace was ransacked by French and British troops and the heads were pillaged. By re-interpreting these objects on an oversized scale, Ai’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads focuses attention on the looting, profiteering, and eventual repatriation of art around the world, and extends his exploration of the ‘fake’ and the ‘copy’ in relation to the original.

A highly regarded global artist, Ai Weiwei has exhibited in prominent museums, cultural institutions and galleries around the world. His work is represented in numerous permanent museum collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; The Tate, London; the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan; and the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland, Australia. Ai worked closely with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron to design the 2008 National Olympic Stadium (“the Bird’s Nest”). A major retrospective Ai Weiwei: According to What? toured internationally from 2009 to 2014. His work is currently on view at several international locations institutions including the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

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