Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads: Gold Opens to the Public Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 1 / 2016

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Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads: Gold Opens to the Public Saturday, February 13, 2016 at the Tucson Museum of Art

TUCSON, ARIZONA (January 5, 2016) – Ai Weiwei, one of the most renowned living contemporary artists, has captivated the world’s attention through his poignant and multi-layered works that examine sociopolitical and human rights challenges faced in China. Throughout his career as an artist and activist, Ai Weiwei has used sculpture, installation, architecture, curating, photography, film, and post-modern art techniques such appropriation and reframing of historical objects to address timely and universal truths about cultural trends and their consequences. Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads: Gold, will open to the public on Saturday, February 13, 2016, at the Tucson Museum Museum of Art (TMA) in historic downtown Tucson. This is the first presentation of Ai Weiwei’s work in Southern Arizona.

The Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze and Gold series has been touring internationally to great fanfare since their official debut at the historic Pulitzer Fountain in New York City in May 2011.The Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze and Gold series have been exhibited (or are scheduled for exhibition) at 35 worldwide institutions since the official launch of this body of work in 2011, including the Tuileries Garden at the Louvre, Paris; the Alder Planetarium, Chicago; the Hirshhorn Museum, DC; Princeton University, NJ; the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico City; the Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LA; the Somerset House, London; and the 29th São Paulo Biennal, Brazil, among other international venues.

“It is a great honor to present Ai Weiwei’s installation at the Tucson Museum of Art,” said Dr. Julie Sasse, Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary and Modern Art, who organized this venue of exhibition. “His work is monumental in importance because of his fearlessness in challenging Chinese authority and the status quo. Using art as a means of expression and resistance, Ai Weiwei addresses difficult issues with beauty, grace, and deep introspection.”

Ai Weiwei, who is currently a guest professor at Berlin University of the Arts in Germany, created the Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads:Bronze and Gold series in 2010 as his first major public sculpture project. Consisting of 12 gold-gilded sculptures of the heads of the Chinese zodiac animals, the series were inspired by the eighteenth-century zodiac water-clock fountain designed by Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione at the court of the Qing-dynasty Emperor Qianlong for the Yuanming Yuan, an imperial retreat outside of Beijing. During the Second Opium War in 1860, British troops, led by Lord Elgin, destroyed the grand fountains, gardens, and palaces, and looted its contents in an act of revenge. Only seven of the twelve original bronze heads survive—rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, horse, monkey, pig—and those remaining sculptures have become both national symbols of the cultural achievements of the Qing era (1644–1911) and a reminder of China’s humiliation by the West. While many Chinese believe the originals should be repatriated, to Ai Weiwei, the original zodiac heads are not national treasures, rather, they were made by Europeans and are merely pawns in a political game of power and ownership. Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads: Gold continues Ai Weiwei’s longstanding interest in appropriation, authenticity, cultural violence, and history.

From April 2011 until July 2015, Ai Weiwei was unable to travel outside of China. He has endured imprisonment, surveillance, and ongoing censorship in China as a direct result of his attention on government accountability and repression of free speech.

Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads: Gold will remain on view at TMA until June 26, 2016.

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