San Francisco's city center is going to get a temporary facelift on May 12 in the form of a gargantuan three-headed, six-armed Buddhist statue entitled, err, Three Heads Six Arms by the international art phenom Zhang Huan. For the massive work of art's world premiere as an outdoor adornment to the Joseph L. Alioto Performing Arts Piazza (across the street from City Hall), the city and good old Gavin Newsom are rolling out the welcome mat with a public ceremony at 10 a.m. Later that evening, the Asian Art Museum and the SF Arts Commission will host a free public program featuring Zhang himself in conversation with Asian Art Museum director Jay Xu starting at 7 p.m. Reserve your spot to see this international art legend here.
The sculpture, which will be gracing the city until 2011, commemorates the year-long, 30th-anniversary celebration of the bond between Shanghai and San Francisco as two of the world's most important centers for arts and culture. It is Zhang's largest work of art to date, standing at 26 feet tall and weighing almost 15 tons. Three Heads Six Arms was inspired by Zhang's discovery of the fingers of ancient, partially-destroyed Buddhist sculptures on sale in a Tibetan market in the wake of China's Cultural Revolution. The fingers of Buddhist deities are full of different spiritual meanings depending on what gestures they are making. Zhang felt that combining these desecrated parts would alleviate the pain their destruction caused, so he created one large deity based upon the fragments he had come upon in that Tibetan market so long ago.
If you can't drag yourself out of bed to witness this amazing ceremony for yourself, there will be many other opportunities to celebrate San Francisco and its sister city, Shanghai. But it's not every day Zhang Huan will be rolling through the Bay to talk about his art for free.