Big Sister

This year marks the 30th anniversary of San Francisco having Shanghai as a sister city. We have 17. The last, Amman, was added late last month; the first, Osaka, 50 years ago. Shanghai is a singular lady, however, and to mark the occasion we've been given a very big statement of sibling loyalty and perhaps oneupmanship: the 26-foot, 15-ton, six-armed, three-headed Three Heads Six Arms, which is currently being lowered gently onto Civic Center Plaza. Zhang Huan's gigantic copper Buddha is not only impressive for its size. It has six arms and three heads. You can't repeat that enough. And one head is Huan's head. It also has no legs: The sculpture is based on the Buddha remnants he came across in a Tibetan market, casualties of the Cultural Revolution. It’s also impressive because, as an artist, Huan is an animal: When he was younger, he got naked, covered himself in honey and fish oil, and sat a fly-infested public latrine for an hour. For art. No wonder Shanghai is our sister city. At today's Three Heads Six Arms dedication ceremony, the mayor and Huan unveil the piece. At 7 p.m., the artist appears at the Asian Art Museum for a free talk with museum director Jay Xu.
Wed., May 12, 10 a.m., 2010

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