TWO LOOTED SCULPTURES RETURNED TO CHINA: INSPIRED AI WEIWEI'S MONUMENTAL SERIES

Jun 28, 2013

By Michael Kramer

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Two of  the original  models for  artist  Ai Weiwei’s stunning zodiac scuptures are back home in China.

The two extremely  rare bronze sculptures were looted from Beijing’s Old Summer Palace during the 1860s and have been officially returned to China by  France’s powerful  Pinault family – which controls a massive portfolio of companies  including Gucci, Christies auction house  and the famed Bordeaux vineyard Chateau  Latour. 

The returned sculptures depict the head of a rabbit and a rat and  were part of a fountain featuring the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. During the second Opium War of 1860, British and French troops destroyed the imperial palace and pillaged its treasures, including the bronzes.

They turned up in 2009 as part of a vast Christie’s art auction – after the death of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

Chinese activist-artist Ai Weiwei’s monumental sculpture series ” Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” is on display  in the reflecting pool at Nathan Phillips Square until September  in advance of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s upcoming exhibit Ai Weiwei: According to What?  opening on August 17th.

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