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Ai Weiwei's "Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze" series debuts at the new Perez Art Museum Miami
Ai Weiwei, "Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze," 2010. Bronze. Dragon 134” high x 66” wide x 77” deep. Images courtesy of the artist and AW Asia. Photo: Tim Nighswander.

MIAMI, FL.- The new Perez Art Museum Miami—a $220 million museum designed by the Swiss architect team of Herzog and de Meuron—opened to the public on Wednesday, December 3rd to coincide with Art Basel Miami Beach 2013. The PAMM is presenting two major shows by Ai Weiwei: the “According to What?” retrospective and the “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze” series of monumental sculptures.

This occasion marks Ai Weiwei's first-ever exhibit in Miami, but stripped of his passport by the Chinese government he was not able to attend. The chief curator of the “According to What?” exhibit, Mami Kataoka of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, was in Miami to install the exhibition. "I'm sure that he's very pleased to be the first artist to be shown in this new building," Kataoka said.

Ai Weiwei’s long-time friend and collaborator Larry Warsh (founder of AW Asia, the lending partner of the Zodiac Heads installation) remarks: “It’s an honor to work with the new PAMM to present this outstanding body of work to the public. Ai Weiwei visited Miami several years ago and he is with us in spirit was we celebrate his art on such a grand scale.”

Ai Weiwei is one of the most significant figures in the contemporary art world. His message is universal: freedom of expression, the importance of human rights and the power of the individual. He remains China’s most outspoken domestic critic and internationally acclaimed artist.

Internationally acclaimed contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has reinterpreted the twelve bronze animal heads representing the traditional Chinese zodiac that once adorned the famed fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Palace), an imperial retreat outside Beijing. Ai Weiwei created this body of work, the “Circle of
Animals/Zodiac Heads,” in two sizes: the Bronze monumental series (mainly for outdoor display) and the Gold collector series (for indoor display). The “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze” is the artist's first major public sculpture project.

Designed in the 18th century by two European Jesuits serving in the court of the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911) Emperor Qianlong, the twelve zodiac animal heads originally functioned as a water clock-fountain in the magnificent European-style gardens of the Yuanming Yuan. In 1860, the Yuanming Yuan was ransacked by French and British troops, and the heads were pillaged. In re-interpreting these objects on an oversized scale, Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” series focuses attention on issues of looting and repatriation, while extending his ongoing exploration of the “fake” and the copy in relation to the original.

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