Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads
by Acclaimed Contemporary Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Will Surround the Greenway’s Rings Fountain
March 7, 2016 – BOSTON, MA – The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy (rosekennedygreenway.org) has announced it will present a sculptural installation by leading contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei around the Greenway’s Rings Fountain from late April to late October 2016. Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is comprised of 12 monumental bronze animal heads representing the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac. The Zodiac Heads series is on a global, multi-year touring exhibition in the United States, Europe, and Asia. The Boston exhibition of this work is organized by the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy and presented in collaboration with AW Asia. The exhibition is funded by the Greenway Conservancy and private donors.
Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is based on the twelve bronze zodiac animals that once adorned a water clock-fountain sited in the elaborate European-style gardens of the Yuanming Yuan (Summer Palace). In 1860, during the Second Opium War, the palace was ransacked by French and British troops, and the heads were pillaged. Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is a re-interpretation of these animal heads that calls attention to the issue of looting and repatriation of art treasures.
“Centrally located, the Rings Fountain is one of the most adored and culturally diverse attractions on The Greenway,” said Lucas Cowan, Public Art Curator for the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. “Our vision in presenting Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads in this location is to allow visitors of all ages and backgrounds, from Boston neighborhoods and from around the world, to come enjoy and contemplate this significant work.
“Ai Weiwei and the Greenway Conservancy share a common goal of bringing art to people in unexpected settings outside the traditional museum context to experience during their daily routines,” Cowan added. “We hope all who see Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads on the Greenway will draw inspiration and find meaning in these sculptures – whether political, social, cultural, or simply as a presentation of animal heads.”
Ai Weiwei is considered China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artist. His work explores culture, history, politics, and tradition, often blurring the lines between art and activism. A few of his best known projects are the National Olympic Stadium (“the Bird’s Nest”) for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing; @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz in 2014-15, a series of site-specific installations which raised questions about freedom of expression and human rights; and his plan to create portraits of freedom advocates using Lego bricks. Ai Weiwei’s work confronts the repressive acts of the Chinese authorities; his activities have caused him to be physically harmed and restrained from travel outside China.
“Public art creates a more welcoming and innovative Boston, and I thank The Greenway for these efforts to bring dynamic art installations to downtown Boston,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “I welcome The Greenway’s Ai Weiwei installation to our City and look forward to the visitors it will bring to downtown.”
Additional Work by Ai Weiwei in Boston
Ai Weiwei’s “Forever” (2003) and “Snake Ceiling” (2009) will be presented as part of Megacities Asia at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) from April 3-July 17, 2016. Representing the unique urban environments of select Asian “megacities” with populations of 10 million or more (Beijing, Shanghai, Mumbai, New Delhi and Seoul), 11 artists will display large-scale sculptures and installations, including loans and site-specific works created in real time at the MFA. The works of these artists—some well-known, others emerging—will reflect issues of each city, including rural-to-urban migration, consumption, construction and pollution, while also celebrating the vibrancy of the urban environment.
“The MFA is thrilled to present two truly iconic works by Ai Weiwei this spring in Megacities Asia,” said Al Miner, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and co-curator of the upcoming exhibition Megacities Asia. “Ai is undoubtedly one of the most influential voices of his generation. The works being presented simultaneously at the MFA and on the Rose Kennedy Greenway represent some of his most beloved creations; in signature Ai style these pieces wed a unique approach to scale and materials with socio-political commentary about his native China.”
For more information about Ai Weiwei and his artwork, please visit zodiacheads.com.
About The Rose Kennedy Greenway
The Rose Kennedy Greenway is a mile-and-a-half long contemporary park in the heart of Boston that connects people and the City with beauty and fun. The non-profit Greenway Conservancy maintains, programs, and improves the Greenway on behalf of the public and in partnership with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In 2015, The Greenway welcomed 1,194,000 visitors to its landmark carousel, events, free Wi-Fi, and popular Mobile Eats food trucks, while millions more enjoyed the fountains, plazas, and gardens. The Conservancy has won numerous awards, including for organic landscape care and park programming.
The Greenway Conservancy’s public art mission is to bring innovative, contemporary art to Boston through free, temporary exhibitions. The Conservancy provides local and international artists with unique opportunities to exhibit bold, new work that considers the possibilities of 21st century Boston, while engaging people in meaningful experiences, interactions and dialogue with art and each other.
Current and recent exhibitions include: “A TRANSLATION FROM ONE LANGUAGE TO ANOTHER,” a textual mural by Lawrence Weiner currently displayed on the 70’ x 76’ Greenway Wall in Dewey Square Park; “As If It Were Already Here,” a monumental fiber sculpture by Janet Echelman that was suspended over the Greenway in 2015; and “Wandering Sheep,” a collection of weather-proof paper sheep by Kyu Seok Oh displayed on and around the landmark red gate in Chinatown Park in 2015. For more information, please visit rosekennedygreenway.org.