Ai Weiwei’s New York Project to Go Forward, With or Without Him

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Ai Weiwei’s surgery in Munich:

Ai Weiwei’s surgery in Munich apparently went smoothly – two holes drilled in his head on Tuesday (or Monday evening?) to remove 30 ml of fluid from his skull. He says the pressure in his head has gone and so has the pain.

He’d been suffering from headaches since police burst into his hotel room in Chengdu at 3 a.m. on August 12 and punched him. They also kept him confined to the hotel that day to prevent him from going to the trial of Tan Zuoren.

See Danwei for more info.


A large-scale public art project by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, to occupy the Pulitzer fountain outside the Plaza Hotel starting early next month, will go forward even if Mr. Ai, who was arrested by the Chinese authorities on Sunday, is unable to be present.

detroitartist ai weiei

Ai Weiwei with one of his Zodiac sculptures at a bronze foundry in Chengdu, China. “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads,” Mr. Ai’s exhibition, is scheduled to open May 2 in the Pulitzer fountain outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

“We’re moving ahead in the same way that we started,” said Larry Warsh, founder of AW Asia, a Chinese contemporary art organization, which organized the show with the City of New York. “The works are done, the works are here.”

As for the artist himself, Mr. Warsh said, “I’m very concerned about him and his safety.” Mr. Ai, who is sometimes called China’s Andy Warhol — an edition of his recent work “Sunflower Seeds” sold in February at Sotheby’s in London for more than a half-million dollars — is due to come to New York in the first week of May to unveil the new project with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and to receive an award from the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture.

Mr. Warsh said he hoped to hear something soon about Mr. Ai, whose whereabouts were still unknown on Monday, adding that it was premature to agitate for the artist’s release. “I would hate to do something without the right sequence,” Mr. Warsh said. “Until we know his exact status, it’s hard to act.” He did issue a statement requesting Mr. Ai’s release and describing him as “among the greatest living artists and thinkers, and a globally respected champion of human rights.”

Mr. Ai’s 12-piece sculpture, “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads,’’ is scheduled to open May 2 and to be on display through July 15 at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue. It is the first major outdoor exhibition to be presented on the site of the fountain, according to the organizers, as well as the first by a contemporary Chinese artist in the city. The installation was inspired by the fabled fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan, an 18th-century imperial retreat just outside Beijing. Designed by two European Jesuit missionaries at the behest of the Manchu Emperor Qianlong, the clock featured each animal of the Chinese zodiac, spouting water at two-hour intervals. In 1860, French and British troops ransacked the Yuanming Yuan, pillaging the heads. Seven of them — the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, horse, monkey and boar — have since been located.

In a series of interviews for a book about the project, Mr. Ai said New York was particularly suited to his sculpture. “It’s not one kind of people,” he said, adding that its residents came from all over the world and included many minorities. “It’s a zodiac city.”

In an interview with The New York Times about the installation last March, Mr. Ai expressed a fondness for New York, having lived here in the 1980s. “It’s a city I would see as my hometown,” he said. “I have a lot of passions and memories about it.”

Sonic the Hedgehog’s Bonus Board

Ai WeiWei, Bubble, 2008, porcelain. Installation view, Watson Island, Miami, 2008.

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