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NYC Galleries Show Ai Weiwei's Work while Donations in China Pour In

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In New York, two galleries have turned their gaze to the work of the controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

"Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold," Ai's famous bronze giant head sculptures plated in gold, will be on view at the Paul Kasmin Gallery next week. The artist's "Profile of Marcel Duchamp in a Coat Hanger" is part of a group exhibition currently on view at the China Institute Gallery.

Meanwhile, from his home outside Beijing, the artist said he had gotten more than $800,000 in donations from supporters. The money is meant to go towards the $2.4 million in fines and taxes that Ai said the Chinese government had asked his company to pay for tax evasion.

"This shows that a group of people who want to express their views are using their money to cast their votes," Ai told The Associated Press. "It shows that in the Internet age, society will have its own judgment and its own values. People are using these methods to re-examine the accusation that I evaded taxes."

Ai said he considered the donations from supporters as loans that he would eventually pay back.

Alyson Klayman, who is making a documentary on the artist called "Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry" has gotten to know the outspoken artist well in the past several years. She said she saw on Twitter that Ai's supporters were slipping bank notes into paper airplanes and flying them over walls into his house.

"It really moves him to have regular people use their voice[s] and be part of the conversation," Klayman said. "And in this case, show their support for him or come to his aid. I know over the years, I've seen him launch campaign over campaign online and the driving force is always to get people involved."

This past spring, Ai was held by the Chinese government for 81 days. During that time, Mayor Bloomberg, among others, said he hoped the Chinese government would release the artist safely at the unveiling of Ai's "Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads" in front of the Plaza Hotel.

In the months since his release, the art world has been following and discussing his story constantly, according to Taliesin Thomas, the director of AW Asia, a Chinese contemporary arts organization that helped organized the installation in the Pulitzer Fountain.

"It's certainly one of the first things that come[s] up when you're swapping notes with your colleagues," Thomas said. "People are really plugged in and have been following his story for months. In New York art circles, people are curious about what the next chapter holds because it seems to be an unfolding drama. The plot thickens just about every day with Ai Wei Wei."

AW Asia is loaning the dragon, monkey, ram and the other zodiac animals that make up Ai's "Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold" to the Paul Kasmin Gallery in Chelsea, where they will be on display starting on Nov. 17, and will run through Dec. 23.

The group exhibition that includes Ai's "Profile of Marcel Duchamp in a Coat Hanger," which is called "Blooming in the Shadows: Unofficial Chinese Art, 1974-1985," will be on view at the China Institute Gallery through Dec. 11.

The Chinese Consulate in New York did not return WNYC's call for a comment on this story.