Photo: iStock

Tech entrepreneur Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and the founding president of Facebook, caused a stir in 2015 when he purchased one of the editions of the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold series, a famous pro-China artwork by Ai Weiwei.

Parker bought the series for a record-breaking US$4.4 million at Phillips London in February 2015. His art adviser, Stefan Simchowitz, made the winning bid on behalf of Parker for his private museum, beating out two phone bidders. This time, a set from the same edition is expected to sell for between $2.5 to $3.5 million, an attractive price for bidders.

Chinese collectors such as Adrienne Cheng (K11), Pierre Chen (Yageo), Budi Tek (Yuz Museum, Shanghai) and Thomas Shao (media baron) are joining American collectors such as Marissa Meyer (Yahoo), Paul Allen (Microsoft), Eric Schmidt (Google) and Chin Chu (private museum) who are diversifying and actively collecting art assets.

The Zodiac Heads: Gold series will be on display at Phillips headquarters until it goes up for auction on May 18

After touring more than 40 locations around the globe, Ai Weiwei’s famous Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (2010) has returned to the city where it was first launched — New York — and hits the auction block this month. The Zodiac Heads: Gold series will be on display at Phillips headquarters until it goes up for auction on May 18 as part of Phillips’ Contemporary Art Evening Sale.

The Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze and Gold series has been seen by millions of people worldwide, making it the most viewed sculpture project in the history of contemporary art. Since the start of the world tour in 2011, the Zodiac Heads have been exhibited at prominent museums and major cities such as London, Berlin, Melbourne, Moscow, Mexico City, Malaga, Toronto,  New York, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Washington, Princeton, and Miami.

Ai Weiwei’s source of inspiration for the Zodiac Heads was Chinese history. His set of bronze sculptures reinterpret the original water clock-fountain from the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) in Beijing, the complex of palaces and gardens built under Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1912).

The original set of historical zodiac sculptures had been destroyed and pillaged by French and British troops in 1860 during the Second Opium War. Ai Weiwei’s reconsideration of these objects in the form of contemporary art is part of his exploration of the “fake” and the “copy” in relation to the original. It is also a national body of work that references the humiliation experienced by the Chinese — Ai Weiwei addresses these complex issues through the creation of these aesthetically beautiful objects.

Back in May 2011, the Zodiac Heads were officially inaugurated with great fanfare and praise by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg celebrated the work of Ai Weiwei while flanked by a group of art world illuminati, setting the stage for this body of work to go and inspire people around the globe. The Zodiac Heads are greatly admired by collectors, curators, academics, museum professionals and all walks of life. Which collector or important business leader will purchase this Zodiac Heads: Gold series for its triumphant and needed return to China?

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

Zara Hoffman

As an art enthusiast, covering the business of art and it's audiences, Zara has been involved in the art and business worlds for over 5 years. Born and raised in New York City, she graduated Cum Laude from the Macaulay Honors College of the City University of New York with a bachelor's degree in Arts Administration. During her study, Zara held internships at The Museum of Jewish Heritage, various auction houses and galleries, and most recently, in the Business Development department at artnet. Zara's...