Twelve four-foot high bronze animal heads on columns created by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei have been installed on the grounds of The Ringling from June 9, 2017 through June 1, 2018. The heads are based on original sculptures commissioned by Manchu Emperor Qianlong in the eighteenth century to adorn a fountain-clock at the imperial retreat outside of Beijing. WeiWei has re-envisioned the entire collection of bronze heads, including those five pieces that were stolen in the nineteenth century by the French and British troops.
As with all exhibitions at The Ringling, the Art Library provides resources that facilitate research and enhance the appreciation of the objects. Here are just some of the books about Ai Weiwei and his art found in the Library:
This new monograph by Uli Sigg, a former Swiss ambassador to China and close friend of the artist, explores each phase of Weiwei’s career up until he was released from custody in China.
Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals specifically addresses The Ringling’s bronze installation. A section of the book is devoted to a discussion of each animal head, followed by individual essays on the historical background of the original objects from the 18th century; the controversy surrounding the Circle of Animals; and the series’ interpretation in gold. Also included is an interview with the artist.
Weiwei-isms from Princeton University Press gives the reader the opportunity to read short quotes by the artist concerning politics, freedom of expression, art and activism, history, the digital world, history, and his personal reflections about his experiences.
Ai Weiwei’s Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009 is a compilation of texts that appeared on the artist’s blog during a three-year period. Translated from the original Chinese, these 100 essays are seen in this book in English for the first time and represent Weiwei’s desire for social change. Eventually the blog was closed by the Chinese government and the 2,700 posts and comments disappeared.
Ai Weiwei: According to What? is a catalogue that accompanied an exhibition organized by the Hirshhorn Museum at the Smithsonian and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. The exhibition took place in 2009, sixteen years after Weiwei returned to China following his ten years in the United States. This exhibition was the first traveling exhibition in North America of Weiwei’s art and was curated to provide visitors with a way range of his work in sculpture, video, installation art, and photography.