The renowned artist’s first show in The Pine Tree State.

Seven years after its official launch in 2011 in New York, Ai Weiwei’s iconic artwork Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold (2010) comes to Maine. It’s the internationally renowned artist’s first exhibition of the in the US state. To make this important event a reality, Heather James Fine Art loaned the sculptures to the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine. “We are very grateful to Heather James Fine Art for bringing this extraordinary show to the Farnsworth. This exhibition will provide the very first opportunity for so many here in our state to view the works of Ai Weiwei, certainly one of the most important contemporary artists in the world today,” says Farnsworth Art Museum Director Christopher J. Brownawell.

One of the artist’s most famous works, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads explores several concepts. These include cultural heritage and repatriation as well as authenticity. The inspiration for the work lies in the 18th and 19th-century imperial gardens of the Yuanming Yuan retreat. More specifically, in the fate of the dozen bronze animal heads which had adorned an intricate fountain-clock designed by Giuseppe Castiglione and Michel Benoit. With the garden destroyed and looted in 1860 during the Second Opium War, five of the zodiac heads were lost forever and the other seven displaced and then returned to China over the years. Ai Weiwei’s artwork provides a new context for the traditional Chinese zodiac animal heads.

Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads consists of two series. The larger bronze edition suits outdoor shows, while the smaller gold gilded series is perfect for a gallery setting. The latter features sculptures that measure between 20 to 30 inches in height. Finally, one of the eight editions of the gold series comes to Maine. The Ai Weiwei exhibition will be on show from March 24 to December 30, 2018, in the museum’s Rothschild Gallery. Photographs© Ai Weiwei. Images courtesy of Heather James Fine Art.

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