Among other things ...

Back in October, 12 bronze animal heads (about 1,000 lbs. each) drew attention as they were lowered via crane into Civic Center Park. It was the start of a year-long installation by the world-renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei of an exhibit featuring 12 animal heads arranged in a circle to represent the Chinese zodiac. As for the artist, he's made a name for himself through his activism-fueled work that expresses themes like free speech and others that are less favorable to the Chinese government. In this case, the installation, appropriately titled Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, is said to criticize Chinese nationalism -- a theme that also resonates with many Americans today. [gallery ids="28031,28032"] It all goes back to 1860 when five of the original sculptures were looted by British and French troops during a raid on the adorned Chinese palace -- the Yuanming Yuan -- and to this day is seen by many Chinese nationals as a symbol of national humiliation. Now you might be thinking, 1860? That happened over 150 years ago, but then again, so did the American Civil War, and the removal of American Civil War statues have been catching a few headlines lately. So for Ai Weiwei, the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, serves as the perfect platform, especially since the original sculptures have been catching some headlines as well. In 2009, the Chinese government made an unsuccessful attempt to halt the sale of two of the statues at auction, however, one Chinese bidder, Cai Mingchao, placed the winning bids of $14 million for each of the heads and then later refused to pay for them in "an act of patriotism." [gallery ids="28029,28030"]
My work is always dealing with real or fake, authenticity, what the value is, and how the value relates to current political and social understandings and misunderstandings," Ai Weiwei said in an interview with Alison Klayman, a filmmaker. "I think there's a strong humorous aspect there. The [Yves Saint-Laurent] zodiac auction [in February 2009] really complicated the issues about art, about the real, about fake, resources, looting, about the appreciation of objects all these kinds of issues." 
Despite Ai Weiwei's replicas standing 10-feet tall and weighing nearly 1,000 lbs. each (which is much larger than the originals -- I'm thinking there's something he's trying to imply there), he assures his audience that the work is not meant to be palatial or ornate, but playful, humorous, and accessible to all as the exhibit travels the world -- making Civic Center Park a great place for the statues to reside while they're in Denver.
"I want this to be seen as an object that doesn't have a monumental quality, but rather is a funny piece -- a piece people can relate to or interpret on many different levels, because everybody has a zodiac connection," he added. So get out there, read about your Chinese zodiac, and relish in one of the most prominent current modern art installations in the world! Then let us know what you think it means!

Want to hear more about what's going on in Colorado? Did you hear about the most recent change at the Denver Center for Performing Arts?