Zodiac (From Papercut Portfolio)
- medium Single work from a set of eight Papercuts, colored fine art paper
- edition 139/250
- size 23.60w x 23.60h in
- created 2019
COA: This work comes with a certificate of authenticity from West Chelsea Contemporary.
Published by: Taschen
Additional Info: Ai Weiwei reflects on his life and works through the Chinese art of papercutting in this limited-edition portfolio. Meticulously cut in large-format, colored fine-art paper, each of the eight pieces represents a decisive moment within the artist’s oeuvre—from his time in New York in the ’80s, his exploration of Chinese crafts in Beijing in the ’90s, to the political activism of his recent work—offering a beautiful, personal retrospective in a unique format.
This papercut offers a new interpretation of an iconic treasure looted from Beijing’s Old Summer Palace by Western powers during the Second Opium War in 1860. Designed by the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione for the court of Emperor Qianlong (1711–1799), the zodiac water-clock fountain is fabled for its precious bronze-plated sculptures of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. It was dissembled when British and French troops sacked the palace, leaving behind ruins that are preserved in a public park to this day. Of the animal heads, seven still exist, mostly in Western collections, and have been rendered by Ai in their exact form. Five were lost (dragon, snake, ram, rooster, and dog), so he designed these animals himself, raising new questions about authenticity and cultural appropriation. “Are they truly lost, or at the auction house?” Ai asks of the originals. “The missing zodiac heads may just show up next season, so we will see how they compare with our version.”