By on September 22, 2015

See Ai Weiwei’s famed work before its Oct. 11 departure

150923Creative2When the Chinese government let dissident artist Ai Weiwei leave the country for Berlin this year, the art world and human rights activists took notice. For several years China hadn’t let the contemporary artist leave.

As the news unfolded on the international stage, people in Jackson wandered among some of the artist’s massive sculptures on exhibit at the National Museum of Wildlife Art.

The internationally recognized “Zodiac Heads,” adorned the museum’s sculpture trail this summer and people still can see the work until Oct. 11 when the exhibit closes.

“It’s a big deal that we have this show here and we only have that for a few more weeks,” said Adam Duncan Harrison, the Petersen Curator of Art and Research at the museum.

Harris saw the exhibit in Washington, D.C., and was struck by its size — the statues of heads representing different animals of the Chinese Zodiac tower 8- to 12-feet high and weigh more than 800 pounds each.

The sculptures, touring the world, had never been shown in the natural setting Jackson could offer, outside with the mountains as a backdrop. Booking the show was a major coup for the museum. The announcement garnered international media attention, especially since Jackson booked the exhibit before other major communities like Boston were able to secure the work.

It is the biggest exhibit by a living contemporary artist the museum has hosted, Harris said.

The exhibit has drawn visitors who knew it was at the museum, but also those who saw the giant statues from the road and said they felt the need to pull in, Harris said.

“It intrigues people in a different way than some of the other exhibits we’ve had,” he said.

It’s immediately engaging as people try to find their sign, but then people start to learn more about the artist and what he is saying about authenticity. The sculptures are his version of 18th century zodiac heads that were recently auctioned, causing uproar in China about the issue of looting cultural artifacts.

“There are just a lot of layers and that engages people over and over again,” Harris said. PJH

About Kelsey Dayton

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