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Lecture and Panel Discussion: Cultural Heritage and Ai Weiwei

October 18, 2016 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Using the historical legacy and artistic concepts of Ai Weiwei’sCircle of Animals/Zodiac Heads as a point of departure, join The Greenway and the Arts & Business Council as they present a panel of experts that can guide us through current cultural heritage concerns and remedies.

The event will present specialists in the fields of heritage appropriation and repatriation; specifically, the looting history in which Ai Weiwei based his monumental artworks; and for comparison in the United States, remedy in the form of federal law for museum collections which enables the repatriation  of Native American cultural items.

The event will feature short lectured presentations on these topics, and will conclude with a moderated panel discussion followed by audience Q&A. Please join us to learn more about this important topic. Small reception to follow.

About Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads:

Designed in the 18th century by two European Jesuits serving in the court of the Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong, the twelve zodiac animal heads originally functioned as a water clock-fountain, which was sited in the magnificent European-style gardens of the Yuanming Yuan. In 1860, the Yuanming Yuan was ransacked by French and British troops, and the heads were pillaged. In re-interpreting these objects on an oversized scale, Ai Weiwei focuses attention on questions of looting and repatriation, while extending his ongoing exploration of the ‘fake’ and the copy in relation to the original.  Ai Weiwei’s work reveals layers of history while bringing attention to current economic, political and collecting issues.


LILLIAN M. LI, Sara Lawrence Lightfoot Professor Emerita of History and Senior Research Scholar at Swarthmore College

Lillian M. Li, a historian of China, was trained at Harvard University under John King Fairbank, and served on the faculty of Swarthmore College until 2012. Her scholarly work focused on economic history and culminated with the publication ofFighting Famine in North China: State, Market, and Environmental Decline, 1690s-1990s (Stanford University Press, 2007). Urban history and visual culture have been her recent interests. She co-authored Beijing: from Imperial Capital to Olympic City (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007 and 2008), as well as an article “Building and Visualizing Cities: China, Europe, and the Islamic World, 1400-1800” in Urban Life in China, 15th-20th centuries (École francaise d’Extrême-Orient, 2016). She has also written “The Garden of Perfect Brightness,” a three-part visual essay on the Yuanmingyuan, for MIT Visualizing Cultures, Open Courseware, and has lectured about the historic significance of this site and the recent controversies about the repatriation of its iconic zodiac animal heads.

PATRICIA (TRISH) CAPONE, Museum Curator and Director of Research and Repatriation, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University

Patricia Capone (Ph.D., Harvard University) joined the staff of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in 1995.  As Curator and Director of Research and Repatriation, Patricia focuses on museum anthropology, North American historical archaeology, repatriation and collaborative methodologies.  As Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, she co-directs the Harvard Yard Archaeology Project with Dr. Diana Loren. She also currently serves as President of the Council of Museum Anthropology within the American Anthropological Association. Her recent article “Amending Wonder: Museums and Twenty Years of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act” (2013), is an example of her work as part of the Peabody Museum’s leadership in considering museums’ history and modern scholarly and public partnerships.


MEGAN LOW is the Director of Services for the Arts & Business Council, where she oversees the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts program.  Megan is a graduate of Boston College Law School and holds a bachelor’s degree in Art History from Harvard University. Prior to law school, Megan graduated from Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York and managed the art gallery at a nonprofit cultural center in Manhattan.  She has also worked as travel writer, freelance grant writer for nonprofit arts and education groups, producer of undergraduate theater, and adjunct professor, teaching courses on arts administration and museology.

This event is produced by the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy and cosponsored by the School of the Arts at Emerson College and the Boston Cultural Council.



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