Ai Weiwei's Zodiac Heads among highlights in February 12 sale

Ai Weiwei's Circle of Animals/ Zodiac Heads is valued at £2m-3m ($3m-4.5m) ahead of a sale of contemporary art at Phillips in London on February 12. 

The work was inspired by an intricate clock adorned with bronze animal heads that once stood in the grounds of the Old Summer Palace on the outskirts of Beijing during the 1700s. 

Weiwei animal Zodiac
Ai Weiwei is a dissident Chinese artist

During the second opium war the palace was looted by European soldiers and the heads stolen. 

In 2009, two of the original sculptures were auctioned at Christie's in Paris - leading to condemnation from Chinese cultural and government agencies. 

Phillips comments: "The fountain's destruction became emblematic of a period of violent imperialist intervention in China often referred to as 'The Century of Humiliation,' and the wound is still raw��?

"Resplendent in beauty, the animals radiate the opulent inheritance of their ancient court setting; but the original heads - as well as Ai's larger alternate version of this work - were in fact unadorned bronze��?

"The set as a whole maintains glorious aesthetic coherence, challenging the idea that the original group was a work of perfection whose loss is an irredeemable tragedy."

Andy Warhol's Diamond Dust Shoes is likely to prove another highlight, with an estimate of £1.5m-2.5m ($2.2m-3.8m). 

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