Yorkshire Sculpture Park welcomes dramatic animal sculptures

New exhibition

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is getting ready to host an exciting new exhibition: Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.

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The world-famous artist, famed for both his art and his political stance, has created a set of 12 bronze animal heads depicting those included in the traditional Chinese zodiac. They are inspired by the set of animal sculptures that were once in place at the imperial summer palace in Beijing.

Ai Weiwei’s creations are currently being exhibited around the globe and will shortly be arriving at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where visitors can see them in the Lower Park until around April 2018.

Themes and inspiration

The artist has drawn on his own experiences when creating the collection. Imprisoned without cause in his native China, Ai has explored the themes of migration, expulsion and repatriation while recreating a new version of the bronze heads of the imperial summer palace.

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The historic statues were stolen when Beijing was under attack during the second opium war in the 19th century, and not all of them have been recovered. Of the original 12, seven have been returned and the other five remain undiscovered.

Each of their contemporary counterparts has been cast in bronze and measures three metres high. Each weighs in at an impressive 363kgs – larger than the originals that inspired them. This fresh take on historic art pieces reflects Ai’s view that art should be subject to subjective opinion. The artist has stated his desire for his collection to be interpreted in any way the viewer sees fit, on many different levels.

The fluid nature of his works could be taken as inspiration by other bronze animal sculpturers, such as http://www.gillparker.com/, and may well provoke new interest in sculpture as an artistic medium.

The global nature of the collection’s tour is also reflective of Ai Weiwei’s views. Their progress from country to country, across Europe, the Americas and Asia, represents a freedom out of reach to many. In choosing to display his collection in this manner, the artist draws attention to the restrictions placed on many of the world’s citizens, including himself while under arrest in China. The collection will make up part of a wider exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park that explores the themes of human freedom and global migration.