Ai Weiwei – Circle of Animals / Zodiac heads

There is something unique and liberating walking in nature surrounded by sculptures that challenge your perception of reality. It can be exhilarating and deeply unsettling, it can be sheerly majestic. Viewing people respectfully interacting with each sculpture can also be quite an uplifting experience, especially when children irreverently remind us of the absurdity of the set-up and of the absurdity of life.   

I could have chosen any of the masterpieces on display in the 18th century country park but the sheer size of Circle of Animals by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was impossible to resist. Ai Weiwei reinterpreted a water clock-fountain portraying the Chinese Zodiac heads that adorned the European style gardens of the Yuanmingyuan. French and British soldiers pillaged the sculptures and in his larger than life reproduction Ai Weiwei brings to the fore themes of looting and repatriation, so very relevant in our day and age, while at the same time exploring the concept of ‘fake’ in relation to the original artwork.

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