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2011.12.08 Thu, by Translated by: 宋京
Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads
Interview with Larry Warsh
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In May 2011, Larry Warsh, an art collector and longtime friend of Ai Weiwei, installed Ai’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” at the Pulitzer Fountain in Manhattan, New York. Since then the “Circle” has begun a tour of the world, including the courtyard of Somerset House in London.
“Zodiac Heads” is an oversized re-creation of the fountain in the (Old) Summer Palace, whose bronze heads were stolen when the palace was ransacked by British and French soldiers (among other countries) in 1860, with the pieces scattered around the world. Since then, only seven have been found, and five have been returned to China, including the pig bought by the Macau gambling magnate, Stanley Ho, in 2003 and later the horse in 2007 (reputedly for almost $9 million USD though this was never verified). Two further heads, the rat and the rabbit, were sold in the Yves St Laurent auction in 2009 but later withdrawn after the Chinese bidder, a buyer for China’s National Treasures Fund, refused to pay up on nationalistic grounds and so remain in the possession of St Laurent’s longtime partner, Pierre Berge. The ox, the tiger, and the monkey were bought successively by China Poly Group, which is owned by the People’s Liberation Army. Still missing are the dragon, the snake, the sheep, the dog, and the rooster, which in Ai’s version have been replaced with heads of his own devising.

Chris Moore: Could you tell us how you and Ai Weiwei met?

Larry Warsh: I met Ai Weiwei sometime around 2005 in Beijing. We had an instant connection. Ai Weiwei lived in New York City [where I live] for a decade, so there was a natural bond and a sort of understanding between us regarding art and culture. I have been collecting his work and collaborating with him ever since. He is a remarkable artist and truly a visionary human being.

拉里•沃希 (Larry Warsh) 和 艾未未 (2009年9月,北京)

CM: How did the idea for the “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” develop?

LW: I had been thinking about public sculpture for some time, and I broached the subject with Ai Weiwei around early 2008. Of course, he was very interested in the concept. At first we just exchanged a lot of ideas and looked at a lot of works of public sculpture. Then he started visiting NYC to get a sense of the possibilities. The zodiac idea occurred to him around the time of the uproar over the Yves Saint Laurent sale at Christie’s, when two of the original heads went up for auction. The notion of creating oversized zodiac heads was a brilliant idea, one that relates very closely to Chinese history as well as contemporary political/social issues. From there we worked together closely to realize the concept and the actual creation and manufacture of the twelve zodiac heads. It has been an incredible process. The world tour for the “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” is now in full swing, and we just this week confirmed the dates for the Taipei Fine Arts Museum exhibition of the “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.” For additional information about this body of work please visitwww.zodiacheads.com.

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