tag archives: circle of animals/zodiac heads

california winegrower, anne moeller-racke, describes the donum estate winery as ‘the ultimate pinot noir project’.

now, thanks to danish businessman and art collector allan warburg, and his partners, who purchased the donum estate winery from anne in 2011, the estate could also be described as the ultimate contemporary sculpture park.

jaume plensa | sanna, giant head

hospitality building (opened september 2017) | designed by MH architects | san francisco, CA

 

the park includes contemporary sculptures by important international artists, including fernando botero,

yayoi kusama, and louise bourgeois.

fernando botero | hombre caminante (walking man)

click here to read about the contemporary sculpture park and the sculpture workshops in pietrasanta, italy, where botero has an art studio.

installations in progress

left:  yayoi kusama | pumpkin

right:  pavilion under construction for a louise bourgeois spider

 

each sculpture has been carefully sited by allan, his partners michael and daniel, and anne.  the juxtaposition of art and nature is breathtaking!  my husband, bob, and i both felt inspired, refreshed, and invigorated after exploring the sculpture park.

right to left:

keith haring | king and queen

dahn vo | we the people

richard hudson | love me

keith haring | king and queen

richard hudson | love me

right to left:

richard hudson | love me

arik levy | rock

mark quinn | shell

arik levy | rock

mark quinn | shell

 

the donum estate sculpture park also showcases contemporary asian art.

yeu minjun | contemporary terracotta warriors

25 warriors installed through out the lavender garden

left to right:

  lui hui | captured rhino

yeu minjun | contemporary terracotta warriors

sopheap pich | morning glory

fernando botero | hombre caminante (walking man)

richard hudson | big moma

lui hui | captured rhino

gao weigang | maze

front to back:

sopheap pich | morning glory

yeu minjun | contemporary terracotta warriors

gao weigang | maze

 

circle of animals/zodiac heads by chinese artist/activist ai weiwei could be considered the most important work of art in the sculpture park.  not only, because it is the only edition of the sculpture that is owned by a private collector.  and, a permanent installation, instead of a touring exhibition.  but also, because of the historical context.

the sculpture is a reinterpretation 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 twelve zodiac animals disappeared when british and french troops ransacked the old summer palace in 1860, during the second opium war.

recently, when some of the zodiac animals from the fountain reappeared on the art market, the sale caused an international controversy.  so, the sculpture could be considered as a political statement about looting and repatriation.

the animals from the ai weiwei sculpture are larger in scale than the animals from the qing dynasty fountain.  so, circle of animals/zodiac heads could also be considered as an ethical statement about artistic license and the differences between originals, copies, and forgeries.

ai weiwei | circle of animals/zodiac heads

shown:  tiger | rabbit | dragon | snake | horse | ram

not shown: monkey | rooster | dog | pig | rat | ox

click here and here to read more about circle of animals/zodiac heads and the zodiac animals from the fountain at the old summer palace (yuanmingyuan)

 

circle of animals/zodiac heads now has commercial connotations.  ai weiwei collaborated with anne on the design of a new wine label for the donum estate.  each year, the animal on the label will change in accordance with the chinese zodiac.  what do you think of their branding and marketing strategy?

donum estate 2014 wine label | the year of the horse

donum estate 2015 wine label | the year of the ram

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

 

the donum estate

24500 ramal road | sonoma, CA 95476 | (707) 939-2290

private tastings and visits to the sculpture park by appointment

the controversy is over.

two of the twelve bronze zodiac animal sculptures that once surrounded the fountain in the gardens of the old summer palace (yuanmingyuan), a qing dynasty (1644-1911) imperial retreat near beijing, have been returned to china by french billionaire francois-henri pinault.

the zodiac sculptures were not only the subject of circle of animals/zodiac heads, a public outdoor sculpture exhibition by chinese artist/activist, ai weiwei, but also, the subject of chinese zodiac, a jackie chan action movie.

ai weiwei | circle of animals/zodiac heads

exhibited 2 may-15 july 2011 | pulitzer fountain | new york, NY

photo credit arrested motion

christie’s sold the the two sculptures for 31.4 million euros (US$40 million) during the february 2009 auction of the collection yves saint laurent et pierre berge.  but, the buyer, a chinese national, withheld payment in protest.  so, the two sculptures remained in the collection of pierre berge until they were acquired by the pinault family.

bronze rabbit and rat zodiac animal sculptures | from the fountain at the yuanmingyuan | qianlong period (r. 1736-1795)

collection yves saint laurent et pierre berge | christie’s paris | 23-25 february 2009 | sale 1209 | lots 678 and 677

photo credits les cahiers d’alain truong
the pinault family controls kering, the french luxury brand group formerly known as ppr, which also owns christie’s.

coincidently, christie’s was recently granted a license to become the first independently operated international auction house in china. (the chinese operations of christie’s compititor, sotheby’s, are a joint venture with state-owned beijing gehua cultural development group.)

could this be a convenient coincidence?

click here to read related previous posts, new york times, wall street journal, and financial times articles.

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.