Hirshhorn Museum Mounts Ai Weiwei Retrospective

Washington will see comprehensive exhibition of the dissident Chinese Artist for Autumn

An exhibition with the title “Ai Weiwei : According to What ?” is being prepared at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC for autumn 2012. It will show a new acquisitions and recent installations as well as survey the artist’s large body of work including ceramics,photography and marble sculptures.

The current installation Cercle des animaux et Têtes du Zodiaque has been set up around the Washington museum’s fountain. It consists of 12 Zodiac-inspired animal heads. The sculpture references the way culture is used in protest by uniting nationalist sentiment and the turbulent relationships of power, money, and politics that lurk beneath seemingly simple spectacles. The fountain  also references a high profile case of non-payment at auction. In February 2009, a pair of 18th- century bronze animal heads from one of the Imperial Summer Palace’s fountains fetched 31.5 million euros at Christie’s International’s sale of the collection of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. This was later uncollected and the lot later turned into a protest statement when the buyer insisted that the works should be returned to China as they were looted in the 19th century.The installation was opened to the public on 19 April. The work consists in a dozen bronze sculptures, each one being about 10 ft. tall, and depicts the signs of Chinese Zodiac (snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit and dragon). Designed during the 18th century by two European Jesuits serving at the court of Emperor Qianlong from the Qing Dynasty, the twelve animal heads of the Zodiac originally functioned as a water clock, placed in the European-like gardens of Yuan Yuanming in Beijing. In 1860, French and British troops rummaged through the Yuan Yuanming and stole the heads. This event has remained in China a symbol of national humiliation. Some of the heads reappeared in 2000 but five of them are still missing.

The retrospective will comprise 40 works in total which will spread over the museum’s gallery areas. The exhibition’s title is a homage to Jasper Johns, who had named one of his paintings with a similar title. Johns inspired Ai Weiwei and remains  a key influence on his style.

The exhibition runs from 7 October 2012 to 24 February 2013