News / USA

Sculptures of Detained Chinese Artist on Exhibit in US

Ai Weiwei sculptures displayed by the Pulitzer Fountain on New York's Fifth Avenue
Ai Weiwei sculptures displayed by the Pulitzer Fountain on New York's Fifth Avenue

Multimedia

Peter Fedynsky

A series of sculptures entitled “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is drawing crowds in New York, the first of five American cities where they will be exhibited.   The sculptures gained notoriety because of Ai's recent arrest by Chinese authorities in what appears to be a crackdown on dissent.  Another political element is inherent in the series: it's based on a painful chapter in China’s 19th century history.

Ai Weiwei's work stands out even amid the skyscrapers surrounding Pulitzer Fountain on New York's Fifth Avenue.  The 12 bronze heads represent the animals of the Chinese zodiac. The artist was inspired by similar heads looted by British and French troops in 1860 at an imperial retreat during the Second Opium War. It was a humiliating period in Chinese history.

One reviewer wrote that such knowledge adds excitement to the exhibition.  But Ai has said the public can enjoy the sculptures without knowing the history.  

“I do love it," said a woman. "It’s an eye catcher, definitely.  We drove in by bus and noticed it immediately on the bus and said, ‘What is that?  We haven’ seen that there before.’"  

Chinese authorities arrested Ai last month, alleging unspecified economic crimes.  He is among scores of Chinese artists, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists arrested in a recent crackdown on dissent.  Political analysts say the arrests seem aimed at preventing this year’s uprisings in the Middle East from spreading to China.

The U.S. display of the “Zodiac Heads” was planned long before Ai's arrest. Melissa Chiu, director of the Asia Society Museum in New York, admires the installation.   

“I think the decision to site the work within a fountain, which harkens back to the original Zodiac Heads at the old summer palace, and the fountain was a great idea," said  Melissa Chiu.

With Ai unable to come for the show, well known artists and mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke at the opening.

The mayor said all artists risk failure, rejection, and public criticism.  But artists like Ai, who come from places that do not value and protect free speech, risk even more.

“His willingness to take those risks, and face the consequences, speaks not only to his courage, but also to the indomitable desire for freedom that is inside every human being," said Mayor Bloomberg.

The Asia Society’s Melissa Chiu notes that ironically the artist and the Chinese government agree about the cultural importance of the Zodiac Heads.  Ai's work calls attention to the stolen originals.  While some of them have been recovered, the Chinese government wants all the remaining ones returned.  

The sculptures are drawing a steady stream of visitors from across the United States and even overseas.  

“And I love them," said another visitor. "I think it’s fascinating to look at."  

The show travels later to Los Angeles, Houston, Pittsburgh and Washington.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid