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Photo Series: Ai Weiwei's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads @ Somerset House


Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals, 2011
12 bronze casts, 10ft tall
Photo: Chris Osburn

Photo Series: Ai Weiwei's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads at Somerset House



Despite acclaim in his home country – receipt of the Chinese Contemporary Art Award for Lifetime Contribution in 2008; his close work with architects Herzog & de Meuron in designing the “Bird's Nest” National Olympic Stadium for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games; his reputation as one of China's top artists; and his father's status as one of China's most renowned poets – contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has frequently found himself at odds with the Chinese government.

Such is the case at the moment as his Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads goes on view in the courtyard of London's Somerset House. What was a few months back originally scheduled as a press call to interview Ai Weiwei and an opportunity to photograph the artist with his Circle of Animals was altered to a sans artist event due to his disappearance in early April. Currently, Ai Weiwei's whereabouts are still unknown. Although no explanation was given for his disappearance, it is widely believed Ai Weiwei was detained by Chinese authorities in response to the online publication of a photograph featuring Ai Weiwei naked except for a toy horse covering his genitals along with a caption in Mandarin that could be interpreted as “Fuck your mother, the party central committee.”

Having attracted considerable media attention for recently being detained and for his outspoken political activism, Ai Weiwei's choice of subject matter for Circle of Animals seems to show Chinese culture and tradition in a positive and (at least on the surface) uncontroversial light. Still, such fearsome yet serene works that demand notice might be just a tad too much for the Chinese government. The monumental works are truly that: massive, slightly beyond reach and hovering above the viewer with throbbing veins, vacant stares or wide mouthed growls appearing frozen in a moment.



Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals, 2011
12 bronze casts, 10ft tall
Photo: Chris Osburn



Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals, 2011
12 bronze casts, 10ft tall
Photo: Chris Osburn



Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals, 2011
12 bronze casts, 10ft tall
Photo: Chris Osburn



Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals, 2011
12 bronze casts, 10ft tall
Photo: Chris Osburn


Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals, 2011
12 bronze casts, 10ft tall
Photo: Chris Osburn


Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals, 2011
12 bronze casts, 10ft tall
Photo: Chris Osburn


Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals, 2011
12 bronze casts, 10ft tall
Photo: Chris Osburn


Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals, 2011
12 bronze casts, 10ft tall
Photo: Chris Osburn

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Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is on display for free in the fountain-clocked courtyard of Somerset House in Central London. A seris of 12 monumental bronze heads representing the 12 creatures of the Chinese zodiac, the works will be on show until 26 June. Somerset House is to host a number of talks by a variety of prominent speakers inspired by the Ai Weiwei's art and activism to coincide with the exhibition. From the 13th of May until July 16th, an exhibition of Ai Weiwei's key sculptural works will be on show at Lisson Gallery in London as well.
 

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is an American transplant living in London where he has a blast working as a freelance photographer, writer, consultant, blogger and more.     www.tikichris.com 

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