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Outspoken Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei's 'Zodiac Heads' to be Taken Down

Friday, July 15, 2011

Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei speaks to reporters outside his studio in Beijing on June 23, 2011. Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei speaks to reporters outside his studio in Beijing on June 23, 2011. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty)

Ai Weiwei's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads will be taken down from the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel on Friday, according to the artist's gallery, AW Asia, because it's the end of the exhibit's run in the city. The bronze heads by the outspoken Chinese artist, which were inspired by a fountain clock in an 18th-century imperial retreat outside Beijing, will be wrapped up and put into storage. The New York stop was part of a world tour for the Zodiac Heads, which will be installed in Los Angeles next month.

Ai was being held by the Chinese government for alleged tax evasion when the outdoor exhibition opened in front of the Plaza on May 4. After being detained nearly three months, he was released on bail on June 22. Museums, human rights groups and federal governments had all lobbied for the release of the artist.

Since Ai is under investigation by the Chinese government for a year, he has spoken little to the press. On Wednesday, he did tell the media that he was considering taking a job as a visiting lecturer at Berlin's University of Arts in 2012, but said that he did not know if he would be permitted to leave China or return to his native country once he had left.

On Thursday, representatives of the design firm that handles his work, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., challenged allegations by the Chinese government at a closed Beijing Local Taxation Bureau hearing that the company had not paid corporate taxes from 2000 to 2010 and that it owed a sum of $1.85 million in back taxes and fines, according to Ai's wife, Lu Qing. Lu is one of the representatives of the design company.

A set of Ai's Zodiac Heads that was on view at the Somerset House in London is en route to Los Angeles and will be installed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on August 20. Then the exhibit goes to Houston, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Ai Weiwei's "Zodiac Heads" at the Plaza Hotel.

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