Taschen & the Dragon

In the realm of high jewellery, Zodiac Charms is the new collaboration between Ai Weiwei and Taschen that follows the success of Taschen Papercut Portfolio of the artist. Through two extraordinary projects, the Zodiac Charms Necklace and the Individual Charms, this partnership has brought to life a unique interpretation of the Chinese Zodiac, blending traditional symbolism with contemporary artistry.

The inspiration for these projects stems from the ancient tale of the “Great Race,” which narrates the origins of the twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac. This story, deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, not only orders time but also imbues each year with the characteristics of the animal that rules it. The animals of the Zodiac – Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig – represent more than temporal markers; they embody the traits and attributes of those born under their influence, playing a crucial role in Chinese history, beliefs, and crafts. 

individual charm “Dragon” by Ai Weiwei – © Taschen x Ai Weiwei Fine Art Jewelry Cover photo: © Luigi & Iango

Ai Weiwei’s exploration of the Zodiac theme is not new.

In 2010, his public sculpture Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads breathed new life into this ancient narrative, offering a profound commentary on cultural dialogue, authenticity, and national values. Drawing on the rich history of the Zodiac and the majestic waterclock fountain designed in the 1750s by the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione for the court of the Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong that was located in the garden of Eternal Spring at Yuanmingyuan, in Beijing’s Old Summer Palace, Ai Weiwei recreated the animal figures, infusing them with contemporary significance and renewing their relevance in modern discourse.

The Zodiac Charms Necklace and Individual Charms take this artistic inquiry a step further, inviting wearers to embody the Zodiac’s symbolism through exquisite pieces of high jewellery. Each charm, hand-cast in 999 pure gold, is a miniature sculpture that captures the essence of the respective Zodiac animal as portrayed in the Circle of Animals. The attention to detail is meticulous, with the reverse of each charm bearing the name of the animal sign in Chinese small seal script, an homage to an ancient form of calligraphy that dates back to the Qin dynasty around 220 BC.

The Zodiac Charms Necklace, a culmination of this artistic venture, presents all twelve animal signs in a single, magnificent piece, offering a wearable narrative of the Zodiac’s mythology. This necklace not only serves as a statement piece of jewellery but also as a carrier of cultural identity and personal significance, allowing individuals to connect with the historical and symbolic dimensions of the Zodiac. In 2024, the year of the Dragon, the Individual Charms project takes on added resonance. The Dragon, revered in Chinese culture for its power and wisdom, is celebrated through an individual charm that embodies the spirit of this mythical creature. This year’s charm, like its predecessors, is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and design, capturing the dynamism and majesty of the Dragon, a symbol of strength and auspiciousness in Chinese tradition.

The collaboration between Ai Weiwei and Taschen in the realm of high jewellery is a bridge between past and present, an exploration of cultural narratives through the medium of fine craftsmanship. These Zodiac Charms are artifacts that carry the weight of history, the richness of Chinese culture, and the provocative spirit of Ai Weiwei’s art. As we celebrate the freedom of art through these projects, we are reminded of the power of creative expression to transcend boundaries, to connect us with our heritage, and to provoke thought and dialogue. The Zodiac Charms Necklace and Individual Charms stand as symbols of this enduring legacy, inviting us to wear our stories and beliefs with pride and to cherish the timeless bond between art and culture.

Ai Weiwei: Zodiac Charms Necklace art edition Necklace with twelve zodiac signs, hand-cast – 999 fine gold. lenght of the necklace 59 cm, adjustable In a clamshell box, with booklet. Limited edition of 48, each signed: 36.000 € – Sold Out – Individual Charms, limited edition of 99: 2.950 €