tag archives: art exhibit

circle of animals/zodiac heads, a public outdoor sculpture exhibition by chinese artist/activist, ai weiwei, recently debuted in new york and london, following a september-december 2010 appearance at the biennale in são paolo, brazil.


ai weiwei | circle of animals/zodiac heads

2 may-15 july 2011

pulitzer fountain, grand army plaza, new york, NY

photo credit arrested motion

 ai weiwei | circle of animals/zodiac heads

12 may-30 june 2011

somerset house | london, united kingdom

photo credit somerset house

the world tour of the exhibition continues at the los angeles county museum of art (lacma) from 20 august 2011-12 february 2012, followed by appearances in pittsburgh, PA, houston, TX, and washington, DC.

it seems ironic that the exhibition debuted in london, since the sculptures were inspired by the bronze heads of the twelve animals of the chinese zodiac that once surrounded the fountain in the gardens of the old summer palace (yuanmingyuan), a qing dynasty (1644-1911) imperial retreat near beijing.  the european-style gardens were designed by jesuit missionaries giuseppe castiglione and michel benoist for the qianlong emperor (r. 1736-1795), who was fascinated by western architecture, science, and engineering.  unlike western cultures, the chinese measured time in twelve two-hour periods.  so, the missionaries engineered the fountain, which functioned as a water clock, to pump water from the head of a different zodiac animal every two hours.

the twelve zodiac animal heads disappeared when british and french troops ransacked the old summer palace in 1860 during the second opium war.  since then, some of the zodiac animal heads from the fountain have reappeared on the international art market, most recently in christie’s sale of the legendary collection of yves saint laurent et pierre berge in paris on 23-25 february 2009.

bronze rat head | from the zodiac fountain at the yuanmingyuan | qianlong period (r. 1736-1795)

from the collection of yves saint laurent and pierre berge

photo credit les cahiers d’alain truong

bronze rabbit head | from the zodiac fountain at the yuanmingyuan | qianlong period (r. 1736-1795)

from the collection of yves saint laurent and pierre berge

photo credit les cahiers d’alain truong

the sale of the bronze rat and rabbit heads from the collection of yves saint laurent and pierre berge created a controversy.  first, china’s foreign ministry issued a statement that the rat and rabbit heads were national treasures that should be returned to china, and attempted to block the sale.  but, christie’s and pierre berge refused to withdraw the lots.  then, a chinese national, cai mingchao, bid 31.4 million euros (US$40 million) for the rat and rabbit heads, and withheld payment in protest.  so, the rat and rabbit heads from the zodiac fountain remain in the collection of pierre berge.

since 2000, the tiger, monkey, ox, boar, and horse heads from the fountain have been acquired by or donated to the poly art museum in beijing.  the locations of some of the other animal heads from the fountain remain unknown.

according to ai weiwei, the animal heads from the fountain were:

‘…designed by an italian, and made by a french[man]…’

‘…i don’t think that’s [a chinese] national treasure…’

this is not surprising, since ai weiwei’s work explores what is fake, real, authentic, or valuable.  he often incorporates antiquities like classical chinese furniture or chinese ceramics into his work…some of my favorite antiques to combine with modern furnishings in my projects at innerspace interior design.

but, the way that he reinterprets these classics could be considered either inspired or irreverent.

constructive?

altar table (qiaotouan) | huanghuali wood | ming-qing dynasty | 16th-17th century

grace wu bruce | hong kong

photo credit grace wu bruce

ai weiwei | table with three legs | qing dynasty table (1644-1911) | 2008

ai weiwei four movements exhibition | phillips de pury | london, united kingdom | 3-28 march 2009

photo credit phillips de pury

ai weiwei | crossed tables | qing dynasty tables (1644-1911) | 2000

sold for 45,600 pounds | phillips de pury | london, united kingdom | 22 june 2007

photo by phillips de pury

evolutionary?

blue and white porcelain bird feeder | ming dynasty (1368-1644) | xuande mark and period (r. 1426-1435)

sold for US$50,000 | christie’s | new york, NY | 17 september 2008

photo credit christie’s

blue and white porcelain cricket jar | ming dynasty (1368-1644) | xuande mark and period (r. 1425-1435)

suzhou museum | suzhou, china

photo credit wikimedia

ai weiwei | owl house 4A | blue and white porcelain | 2010

haines gallery | san francisco, CA

photo credit artnet

destructive?

painted grey earthenware cocoon jar | western han dynasty (3rd-2nd century BC)

sold for US$2500 | christie’s | new york, NY | 24 march 2011

photo credit christie’s

ai weiwei | coca-cola vase | han dynasty vase and industrial paint | 2010

ai weiwei (copenhagen) exhibition | 18 november 2010-27 march 2011 | faurschou | copenhagen, denmark

photo credit artnet

ai weiwei | colored vases | 31 han dynasty vases and industrial paint | 2010

ai weiwei exhibition | 13 may-16 july 2011 | lisson gallery | london, united kingdom

photo credit lisson gallery

or, revolutionary?

ai weiwei’s work is considered so controversial in china that, on 11 january 2011, chinese officials ordered the demolition of his shanghai art studio because it did not comply with building regulations.  then, he was arrested on 2 april 2011 in beijing.  and then, he was charged with tax evasion.  now, everyone is wondering when he will be released.

‘release ai weiwei’ sign posted on the facade of the tate modern museum | london, united kingdom

photo credit randomwire

and, i’m also wondering why circle of animals/zodiac heads is appearing in pittsburgh and houston, but not in san francisco.

ps.  on 22 june 2011, ai weiwei was released on bail.  however, the conditions of his bail forbid the artist/activist from speaking to the media for at least a year.

two san francisco art galleries are presenting landmark exhibitions of paintings by richard diebenkorn and helen frankenthaler during april, may, and june 2010.

richard diebenkorn | paintings and drawings from the collection of christopher diebenkorn at the paul thiebaud gallery opened on 20 april 2010 and runs until 26 june 2010.

instead of the gestural techniques of the abstract expressionist and color field painting movements of the 1950’s, richard diebenkorn (1922-1993) developed a more controlled style, where the geometric lines accumulated during the drawing and painting process remain visible. in addition to other modern artists and his academic colleagues, diebenkorn’s residential location influenced his work.

here are some highlights from the show, which not only features abstract works from diebenkorn’s earlier sausalito (1947-1949), albuquerque (1950-1952), urbana (1952-1953), and berkeley (1953-1966) periods, but also from his later santa monica (1966-1988), and healdsburg (1988-1993) periods.

sausalito

richard diebenkorn | untitled | watercolor, ink and paper tape on paper | 1946

photo credit paul thiebaud gallery

albuquerque

richard diebenkorn | untitled | gouache on paper | 1951

photo credit paul thiebaud gallery

urbana

richard diebenkorn | untitled (urbana) | ink and gouache on paper | 1952

photo credit paul thiebaud gallery

berkeley

richard diebenkorn | cityscape #4 | oil on canvas | 1963

photo credit paul thiebaud gallery

santa monica

richard diebenkorn | invented landscape | gouache and crayon on paper | 1977

photo credit paul thiebaud gallery

healdsburg

richard diebenkorn | untitled #10 | crayon, graphite, synthetic polymer, and pasted paper on paper | 1991

photo credit paul thiebaud gallery

the exhibition also features representational figural drawings, still life drawings, landscapes, and cityscapes from the different phases of diebenkorn’s career.

which style and ‘location’ do you prefer?

two san francisco art galleries are presenting landmark exhibitions of paintings by helen frankenthaler and richard diebenkorn during april, may, and june 2010.

helen frankenthaler | paintings 1961-1973 at the john berggruen gallery opened on 1 april 2010 and runs through 22 may 2010.

helen frankenthaler (b.1928), who was influenced by the techniques of abstract expressionist painters such as jackson pollock, willem de kooning, and mark rothko, led the color field painting movement in new york during the 1950’s.  she developed a gestural painting technique that, by pouring paint over an unprimed instead of a primed canvas, allowed the paint to penetrate and stain the surface.

here are some highlights from the show, which features rarely exhibited paintings from the collections of the artist and other private collectors.  some of the earliest paintings in the exhibition include provincetown l from 1961 and pivitol square from 1962.

helen frankenthaler | provincetown l | oil on canvas | 1961

photo credit john berggruen gallery

helen frankenthaler | pivitol square | oil on canvas | 1962

photo credit john berggruen gallery

helen frankenthaler | gulf stream | oil and acrylic on canvas | 1963

photo credit john berggruen gallery

helen frankenthaler | mountain pool | acrylic on canvas | 1963

photo credit john berggruen gallery

helen frankenthaler | orange underline | acrylic on canvas | 1963

photo credit john berggruen gallery

the san francisco museum of modern art loaned interior landscape from 1964 to the berggruen gallery for the exhibition.

  helen frankenthaler | interior landscape | acrylic on canvas | 1964

photo credit john berggruen gallery

according to art scholar, barbara rose, coalition from 1968 is:

‘among the finest paintings produced anywhere in the late sixties’.

helen frankenthaler | coalition | acrylic on canvas | 1968

photo credit john berggruen gallery

but, harold rosenberg, a new york art critic and proponent of the abstract expressionist movement, described frankenthaler’s post-1960’s work as:

‘mere interior decoration.’

helen frankenthaler | moveable blue | acrylic on canvas | 1973

photo credit john berggruen gallery
what do you think?