On 22/12/2013 by Site Default

Action star Jackie Chan has claimed he’s never heard of artist Ai Weiwei, which is, needless to say, a pretty ridiculous claim for many reasons. Both Ai and Chan are world-famous Chinese figures of almost the same age, and Ai is one of the world’s most well-known Chinese contemporary artists. In addition, the two happen to have something directly in common: they have both produced creative projects focusing on a highly symbolic set of 12 antique bronze zodiac heads that have become a hotbed of controversy over the past decade.

However, their common interest in the bronzes is where their similarities end, because their views on the subject couldn’t be more different.

Recently, Universal Pictures announced that it will be acquiring the rights in many non-Asian countries to Chinese Zodiac, Chan’s two-hour ode to reclaiming national heritage through martial arts. This sale was made despite the fact that the film opened in Dalian Wanda-owned AMC theaters in the United States to mixed reviews last month. In the film, he plays a mercenary treasure hunter on a mission to track down the heads, which, in real life, were looted from the Qing dynasty Summer Palace in 1860 by Western invaders and are scattered throughout the world in both secret and known locations. Because of their tumultuous history, the Chinese government has worked hard to promote the sentiment that the heads are national treasures that do not rightfully belong outside the country, and Chan’s film emphatically supports this narrative. However, the film has not impressed American audiences, as it was described by reviewers as “an uneven ride that is repeatedly stalled by grandstanding anti-colonial screeds” and a “sad reminder of what Jackie Chan used to be.”

Meanwhile, a very different interpretation of the heads by Ai is going on display in the United States this week: a set of 12 sculptures inspired by the famous looted bronzes will be the focal point of an Ai Weiwei retrospective beginning at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) on December 3 in time for Art Basel Miami, which kicks off on December 5. The bronzes were previously on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario from June until September, and a similar, smaller set by Ai also recently went on exhibition at the Crow Collection of Asian Art, a museum in Dallas, where it will be available for viewing until March 2, 2014.

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