Fun Facts About Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals, Coming to Houston’s Hermann Park in May

by Bill Davenport February 22, 2012

  • The Hermann Park installation is part of a six-stop US tour that includes New York, Los Angeles, Princeton, NJ, Washington D.C., and Pittsburgh.
  • The 12 monumental bronze heads each weigh 800 pounds and stand roughly 10 feet high.
  • They’re giant copies of elements from a famous water clock made for the Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Palace) outside Beijing by Jesuits in the 18th century. The sculptures were looted by European soldiers in 1860.
  • Seven of the 12 original heads, the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, horse, monkey and boar, have been recovered. The dragon, snake, goat, rooster and dog are still missing.
  • Ai Weiwei gained global recognition for his Bird’s Nest Stadium designed for the 2008 Olympic Games
  • In 2011, Weiwei was imprisoned, held incommunicado by the Chinese government for 81 days on charges widely thought to be a pretext for politically-motivated intimidation.
  •  The exhibit is scheduled to coincide with the April 14 – 15 opening of the new Asia Society Texas Center.
  • The sculptures require three 40-foot trucks to be transported. Thirty man hours (or three 10-hour shifts) are needed to install all 12 sculptures in Hermann Park.

Quotable quotes:

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, about the  piece’s NY premier: “As we continue to showcase the best art exhibits and attractions, we maintain our status as the cultural capital of the world.”

HAA’ director Jonathan Glus, about the Houston installation: “Thousands from Houston and beyond will share in this culturally relevant experience, which helps build our city’s visibility as an international arts center.”

Weiwei, about his  first public art work: “because Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is composed of animal heads, it’s a work that everyone can understand, including children and people who are not in the art world.”

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