Ai Weiwei Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold
LocationCrow Collection of Asian Art
Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has made headlines for his provactive pieces and criticism of the Communist Chinese government, words and works that have turned him into a sort of moral hero in the face of crackdowns and complacency. This particular series of twelve bronze, gilded animal head sculptures adheres to his Marcel Duchamp-inspired "readymade" aesthetic—examining what is real, a copy, and just fake. The form for each head, one for all the signs of the Chinese Zodiac, is taken from an Italian-designed fountain clock made for Yuanming Yuan, a summer palace built for the emperors of the Qing Dynasty. It was already a mix of European and Chinese styles, an appropriation in itself, and the Zodiac imagery can be both a powerful talisman to the past or cultural kitsch.