Entrepreneur Sean Parker has been named as the buyer of Ai Weiwei‘s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (2010). On 12 February 2015, the sculpture sold for $4.4 million at the Phillips Contemporary Art Evening in London.
This sculpture is the seventh in a series of eight. It consists of 12 gold-plated bronze statues, each depicting a Chinese zodiac sign, based on the 12 bronze animal heads, designed in the 1700s by European Jesuits in the Emperor Qianlong’s court, which formed part of the water clock fountain of the Old Summer Palace. When the palace was looted by British and French troops during the Second Opium War in 1860, these heads were dispersed throughout the world: only seven are still accounted for, and, as of 2013, they have all been repatriated to China. Ai’s sculpture thus brings up the themes of authenticity, appropriation, and conflict. The sale of Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads sets a new record for the artist at auction, beating the previous record of $1.2 million, which was set after the sale of Map of China at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, in June 2014.
Sean Parker is known for being a founder of the file sharing service Napster, a founding president of Facebook, and a board member of Spotify. He was portrayed by Justin Timberlake in the 2010 film, The Social Network. According to Forbes, he has a net worth of $2.6 billion.