Contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is making his public art debut with an installation of Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads right outside Central Park, across from the Plaza Hotel at Grand Army Plaza 5th Avenue and 60th Street. Mayor Bloomberg announced the plan for the huge, bronze sculptures last week, “It is innovative and thought-provoking exhibits like Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads that keep New York one of the world’s great places to live, work and visit. And as we continue to showcase the best art exhibits and attractions, we maintain our status as the cultural capital of the world. We are honored that New York is host to this monumental work by Ai Weiwei, before it travels the rest of the globe."
The piece, which, a press release tells us, was "inspired by the fabled fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan, an 18th-century imperial retreat just outside Beijing," is made up of twelve cast bronze heads, which stand on bronze bases. The heads are 800 pounds each and are about 4 feet high by 3 feet wide; the head and base are about 10 feet high.
Ai Weiwei said in a statement, “My work is always dealing with real or fake, authenticity and value and how value relates to current political and social understandings and misunderstandings. However, 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. I think it’s more important to show your work to the public. That’s what I really care about.”
If you're heading to London—or have been there recently—you may have seen Ai's huge Sunflower Seeds installation at the Tate Modern. The millions of seeds look like real sunflower seeds, but they are actually individually handcrafted porcelain "seeds." And in spite of concerns over whether the dust emitting from the "seeds" is dangerous, some of the work's seeds were sold at auction for $560,000.