Prague, Jan 31 (CTK) – Zodiac, a sculpture project by Ai Weiwei, the world-renowned Chinese artist and critic of the Beijing regime, was put on display outside the Trade Fair Palace in Prague on Sunday, a few days ahead of its author’s arrival in the Czech capital.
Zodiac, which will be personally presented by Ai Weiwei this week, expresses criticism of the European war intervention in China in the late 19th century and of the present arts market, Jiri Fajt, director of the National Gallery in Prague, told CTK.
“This is for the first time Ai Weiwei will present his work in person, on all previous occasions he lacked a passport and could not attend the presentations,” Fajt said.
Zodiac is the first presentation of a work by the world-significant artist in the Czech Republic. Next year, Ai Weiwei is to create a work of art directly for the National Gallery, Fajt said.
Ai Weiwei will stay in Prague on February 5-6. Apart from presenting his work, he will attend two discussion meetings in which human rights and migration are likely to be touched on, Fajt said.
Zodiac consists of 12 large bronze animal heads. It will remain on display in front of the palace, which hosts NG’s collections of modern and contemporary arts, until the end of August.
The Czech Republic is one of the few countries, together with Denmark, Germany, Russia and Spain, where Zodiac was or is to be installed, Fajt said.
“We started negotiations with Ai Weiwei about the presentation of Zodiac last spring, when we visited him in Beijing. At the time, he was still unfree, banned from leaving China. The situation changed in summer and we met for another round of negotiations in Berlin,” Fajt said.
The statues were transferred from Beijng by ship to Hamburg, and then to Prague by lorries. Their installation with the assistance of cranes took several hours on Sunday.
The Zodiac sculptures were created as copies of the sculptures that two European Jesuits designed for the former Chinese emperor in the 18th century. The original statues formed a water clock in the fountain of the Old summer palace in Beijing. It was pilfered by the French and British soldiers during the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century.
The installation of the statues in a public area reminds of the complex system of links between arts, history and politicians, Fajt said.