Thursday, April 14, 2011
Media coverage surrounding Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei’s detainment by the Chinese government has been mounting recently in the month leading up to the scheduled unveiling on May 2 of his sculpture to be displayed at the Pulitzer Fountain (outside of the Plaza Hotel at 59th Street and Fifth Ave), titled ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.’ The sculpture, a collection of 12 bronze animal heads, evokes an imperial 18th century fountain clock that was pillaged in 1860 by French and British troops. Only seven of the 12 original heads have been recovered—protests in China ensued in 2009 when two of the original heads were put up for sale at Christie’s as part of Yves Saint Laurent’s estate—so the piece evokes a complex relationship and history between East and West. Whether or not Weiwei will be present in NYC for the opening is as of yet unclear. Members of the international arts community have called for Weiwei’s release in an online petition to the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China. But as of today a Hong Kong newspaper under Beijing control reported charges against Weiwei of tax evasion and denunciation by his sister. Whether he is released or not, these tactics and circumstances are shedding increasing light on the significance of Weiwei’s work in China and abroad.