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ai weiwei reinterprets his animals/zodiac head sculptures into gold lunar year charms

The Ai Weiwei Zodiac Charms by TASCHEN

 

Renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei collaborates with TASCHEN to unveil an exclusive collection of fine art jewelry—the Gold Zodiac Charms. Inspired by his seminal 2010 sculpture series, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, Ai Weiwei explores the elaborate fabric of Chinese mythology. Beyond being wearable art, the distinctive collection serves as cultural symbols that traverse centuries. Each charm, crafted from 999 pure gold, draws from the animal figures highlighted in the artist’s prior work, encapsulating both the personal and historical importance associated with the Chinese zodiac.

ai weiwei reinterprets his animals/zodiac head sculptures into gold lunar year charms
Ai Weiwei and his Zodiac Charms | all images courtesy of TASCHEN

 

 

Exploring the Cultural Significance of Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Charms

 

The limited-edition collection by Ai Weiwei (find more here) and TASCHEN (find more here) delves into the narrative of the Great Race, recounting the origin and order of the twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac. Originating from the Twelve Earthly Branches used to organize time, the animal zodiac comprises Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. These animals govern a lunar year, influencing the characteristics of those born during their respective spans and symbolizing the twelve double hours of the day. The hierarchy stems from a mythical race to the Jade Emperor’s birthday, with the rat claiming the midnight hour by ingeniously riding the Ox across a turbulent river.

 

As part of Ai Weiwei’s ongoing exploration of Chinese history, beliefs, and craftsmanship, he notably reinterpreted the Zodiac in his 2010 public sculpture, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. This artwork reflects his contemplations on cultural dialogue, war, authenticity, and national values. Recreating the zodiac figures from an 18th-century fountain in Beijing’s Old Summer Palace, Weiwei intertwines the history of the zodiac signs with the story behind the animal heads.

 

The collection encourages wearing zodiac signs as charms, a tradition dating back to the inception of the zodiac concept. Appropriately, each charm’s reverse side features the animal sign’s name in Chinese small seal script, an ancient form of calligraphy standardized during the Qin dynasty around 220 BCE. Sculpted based on its appearance in the Circle of Animals, the Zodiac Charm is hand-cast in 999 pure gold. 

ai weiwei reinterprets his animals/zodiac head sculptures into gold lunar year charms
the limited-edition charms come in a bright red packaging

ai weiwei reinterprets his animals/zodiac head sculptures into gold lunar year charms
each charm is hand-cast in 999 pure gold on a red silk string

ai weiwei reinterprets his animals/zodiac head sculptures into gold lunar year charms
the necklacee with all the zodiac charms

ai weiwei reinterprets his animals/zodiac head sculptures into gold lunar year charms
Naomi Campbell and the Zodiac Charms by Ai Weiwei

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the ram charm

ai weiwei reinterprets his animals/zodiac head sculptures into gold lunar year charms
the dog charm 

ai weiwei reinterprets his animals/zodiac head sculptures into gold lunar year charms
each charm’s reverse side features the animal sign’s name in Chinese

ai weiwei reinterprets his animals/zodiac head sculptures into gold lunar year charms
the ox charm

ai-weiwei-2010-zodiac-head-sculptures-gold-charms-lunar-year-designboom-full-01

the rooster charm

ai weiwei reinterprets his animals/zodiac head sculptures into gold lunar year charms
the tiger charm

 

 

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the monkey charm
the monkey charm
the snake charm
the snake charm
the pig charm
the pig charm
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the rabbit charm
the rabbit charm

project info: 

name: The Ai Weiwei Zodiac Charms
artist: Ai Weiwei
in collaboration with: TASCHEN

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