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Ai Weiwei debuts new sculptures


Ai Weiwei’s work is world-renowned and seeks to not only have a political meaning, but also reaches for something deeper in everyone. The Chinese contemporary artist wishes to appeal to everyone’s humanity.

Photo: Nicole Elizabeth – CU Sentry

On Oct. 17, Denver Civic Center Park officially introduced artist Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals: Zodiac Heads.” The massive zodiac heads are based on the traditional Chinese zodiac that were once found on the fountain clock of the “Garden of Perfect Brightness.” The garden was ransacked by the French and British in 1860. To pay tribute to the disaster, Weiwei created the same zodiac heads in bronze casting, each weighing up to one ton.

One attendee, Haley Pierson, speaks about what his artwork means to her. “It’s about what we owe to each other on a human level,” Pierson said. “What one human being owes to another. We are all the same in that aspect.” When Pierson was in New York, she saw Ai Weiwei’s, “Laundromat,” an exhibit that included racks and racks of clothing found from immigrants.

“Laundromat” focuses on the refugee crisis and the devastating effects of displacement. On the floor were boots, folded clothes, and articles written about the individuals. On the walls, pictures took up every inch with faces of more refugees.

“It was hard to breathe,” Pierson said. “There’s something about seeing the clothing that people were actually wearing and baby shoes that makes us stop for a second.”

Individuals took the stage at the grand opening of the installation to speak about Weiwei and the significant impacts he makes across the globe through his art. Larry Warsh discussed  the impact of having such an exhibit in Denver.

“Denver is a city that is ready to take its place on the world cultural stage,” Warsh said. “Having this piece here only goes to prove that.”

Later this week, Weiwei will release a documentary, Human Flow. The film focuses on displacement, homelessness, and the challenges that refugees face.  “My family and I became political refugees during the Vietnam war,” a member from Denver Arts and Venues said. “After losing everything, we realized that our culture is the only thing that we could bring with us. Weiwei and I share the same belief in the value of maintaining our culture. But, more importantly, sharing it to bring awareness to others. Tonight is a celebration of this iconic aspect of Asian culture—its resilience and its significance.”

Next, Denver Deputy Mayor Angela Haynes took the stage. “All people, or people like you, are keepers of the culture, and that’s exactly why we are here,” Haynes said.

Haynes continued to discuss how proud she is to have Denver be home to not only one of the most popular contemporary artists, but also one of the most influential and a renowned promoter of basic human rights. “We believe in Denver, in the importance of integrating art and culture into the lives of our visitors, our residents, and our children especially, by making art visible and accessible. They will be daily reminders for everyone of the importance of art, culture, and diversity.”

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