Public Programs Discuss the Work of Ai Weiwei in the Final Month of “Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads” that is on view at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

EUGENE, Ore. -- (May 11, 2018) – Ai Weiwei, one of China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artists, will be the subject of two public programs hosted by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon this spring. The programs are held in conjunction with Ai’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” sculptures, which are on view in the JSMA’s North Courtyard through June 24, 2018.


On Friday, May 18 from 3 to 5 p.m., “Ai Weiwei: A Rhetoric of Struggle” will be the Inaugural J. Sanford and Vinie Miller Family Arts of Asia Distinguished Lecture in Asian Art.  Jeff Kelley, art critic, author, and curator will examine Ai in the context of his prolific creative output and passion for social justice in China and the world. Following the talk, University of Oregon faculty members Ina Asim (History) and Jenny Lin (History of Art and Architecture) will join Kelley for a panel discussion moderated by JSMA Chief Curator of Asian Art Anne Rose Kitagawa. The event will take place in Lillis 112.


“The JSMA is honored that Sandy and Vinie Miller have established the new Arts of Asia Distinguished Lecture series that bears their name and we are thrilled to start with Jeff Kelley’s highly-anticipated Ai Weiwei presentation and discussion that will make accessible more information about this important global artist/activist,” says Kitagawa.

On June 7, beginning at noon, the JSMA will screen Ai Weiwei’s epic documentary, “Human Flow.” The film gives visual expression to the global refugee crisis by examining its profound impact on a variety of individuals. “Human Flow” was filmed in 23 countries and follows the stories of people spanning Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey.


Following the screening at 3 p.m., Portland Meet Portland Director Manuel Padilla will lead a post-film discussion. A second screening of “Human Flow” followed by a community discussion will take place on Tuesday, June 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Knight Law Center, Room 184, 1515, Agate Street, Eugene. Both screenings are organized by the UO student organization Define American, in partnership with the JSMA, Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, Oregon Humanities Center, the UO Department of Romance Languages, And UO Global Justice Program.


Ai Weiwei’s monumental installation “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” is a reinterpretation of the series of animal heads that once adorned statues on the famed 17th-century fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Palace), an imperial retreat outside Beijing. In 1860, British and French troops ransacked the palace and the original heads were pillaged.  The heads’ illicit removal and subsequent existence in various western collections are one focus of Ai’s scrutiny. On view through June 24, his contemporary installation references the originals by creating a dozen monumental bronze sculptures that represent the signs of the traditional Chinese zodiac: 11 real-world animals (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig) and one mythical creature (dragon). Some of Ai’s statues faithfully follow the 17th-century prototypes, while others (when the originals were not available for study) are creative reinterpreations.


Ai Weiwei is well known for such projects as the “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn” performance (1995), and installations such as “Sunflower Seeds” at the Tate Museum (2010), “Trace” at Alcatraz (2014), and “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” in New York City (2017-18), as well as for his collaboration with architects Herzog & de Meuron on the design for the “Bird’s Nest” (Beijing National Stadium) for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Throughout his career, he has offered insights into the complex relationships between art, society, and freedom of expression by exploring such universal topics as culture, history, politics, copying, and originality.


Ai’s identity as a spokesperson for human rights and his passion for engaging in critical dialogue have resulted in his persecution by the Chinese Communist Party. In 2011, he was detained for 81 days without charge and his passport was confiscated; until 2015 he was not allowed to travel outside China even to attend the openings of his own exhibitions. During his period of confinement, the ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads’ were already touring, acting as a kind of artistic surrogate through which he could communicate to a global audience.


About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.  The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, Europe, and the Americas as well as changing special exhibition galleries.  The JSMA is one of seven museums—and the only academic art museum-- in Oregon accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.


The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.


Contact: Debbie Williamson Smith, 541-346-0942,


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