Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads Under The Hammer At Phillips

Phillips London’s Contemporary Art Evening sale on February 12 will host Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (2010). The group of gold-plated bronze sculptures, number seven of an edition of eight, has a presale estimate of £2 million to £3 million.

The Chinese artist’s sculptures are based on the zodiac clock-fountain that once graced the gardens of the Beijing palace of the Emperor Qianlong, which was destroyed and looted in 1860 by French and British troops. Only seven of the twelve figures are still known to exist. Five of the figures have been repatriated to China, but ownership of the remaining two is still contested.

The dissident artist stated: “I think it’s a good idea to have a complete set: these seven that exist and the five that are unknown. Without twelve, it’s not a zodiac, so [the idea was] first, to complete it, and [more important,] to complete the way I think it should be.”

Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads was recently on view in the UK as part of the inaugural exhibition of Blenheim Art Foundation. The foundation presented Ai Weiwei in the first contemporary art exhibition in the rooms and gardens of the 18th century Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire – the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill – with more than 50 artworks by the celebrated Chinese artist and political activist. The exhibition; which was actually the launch of the Blenheim Art Foundation, took meticulous planning by Weiwei, who had been forced to curate the show from a distance due to the Chinese authorities preventing the artist from leaving his country – in which the artist and political activist’s Zodiac Heads featured prominently.

Weiwei will soon have his fist major institutional survey in the UK, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The outdoor iteration of Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, in which the sculptures are larger and bronze, not gilded, is currently on display in Chicago, outside the Alder Planetarium.

Photo: P A Black © Artlyst 2015 all rights reserved

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