Jun 28, 2013
By Michael Kramer
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.