Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads

You know them from the placemats at Chinese restaurants. Right to left: pig, dog, rooster and half a monkey.

Over Memorial Day I got a chance to swing by and see Ai Weiwei’s sculpture exhibit at the Plaza Hotel at the southeast corner of Central Park.

Toughest chicken ever! Right to left: rooster, monkey, sheep, horse and snake.

The odd thing is that there isn’t a sign describing the heads sitting in the Pulitzer Fountain. There isn’t even a sign that notes the name of the artist or the title of the work (“Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads“). Maybe it was meant to echo China’s silencing of Ai Weiwei via jail.

The rabbit is in a rather precarious spot. Right to left: dragon, rabbit, tiger and ox.

What is the meaning behind the art itself? Surely it echos the bronze zodiac heads of a famous ancient water clock that were looted from China by British and French forces in the Opium War. It may also be a comment on capital punishment in China (the highest in the world on an annual basis, though not on a per-capita basis).

The first time I saw the tiger, I thought it was a bear! Right to left: tiger, ox and rat.

Or perhaps the 12 animals represent the mercurial nature and hypocrisy of the Communist Party of China, and the different masks it wears year-to-year, day-to-day, depending on whom it is addressing and what it ultimately wants.

I’m just saying.

Los Angelenos: Don’t be bummed you’re not in New York City. The exhibit is coming to LACMA in September!