Slideshow: Buddha sculpture in SF Civic Center being dismantled 

A large sculpture that has been in San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza since May was being removed Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Arts Commission said.

Click on the photo to the right to see a slideshow of the sculpture being dismantled.

"Three Heads Six Arms," a 26-foot-tall sculpture by Chinese artist Zhang Huan, was installed on the east side of the plaza in May to celebrate the 30th anniversary of San Francisco's sister-city relationship with Shanghai, China, commission spokeswoman Kate Patterson said.

The sculpture, which depicts the fracturing of Buddhist sculptures during the Cultural Revolution in China, faces east to symbolize its connection to Shanghai, where it is headed after being dismantled this week, Patterson said.

"Three Heads Six Arms" was a popular attraction in the plaza outside City Hall, with tourists frequently snapping photos of it, but was always meant to be a temporary installation, Patterson said.

In exchange, Shanghai was given a sculpture made by San Francisco native Chase Chen, according to SFChina executive director Ginny Fang.

Fang said that sculpture was a gift presented by Chen on behalf of the city.

SFChina is an initiative of the San Francisco Center for Economic Development that works closely with the city to maintain the sister-city relationship with Shanghai, Fang said.

Chen's sculpture, titled "The Sprout," was bestowed upon the Chinese city at last year's World Expo in May, Fang said. It now sits in front of a former smelting plant that has been converted to an urban sustainability building, she said.

"The San Francisco sculpture marks the revitalization of an old, toxic building that has been transformed into a city landmark," Fang said.

Unlike "Three Heads, Six Arms," the sculpture in Shanghai will remain in China indefinitely, Fang said.

Patterson said Huan's sculpture will be joining "The Sprout" in Shanghai soon.

Crews will be using a crane and other heavy equipment to take apart the sculpture arm by arm over the next few days. The entire sculpture weighs about 15 tons, with each appendage weighing about a ton, according to Patterson.

Civic Center Plaza frequently features temporary art installations - in 2009, an environmental sculpture was interwoven into the plaza's trees - but will remain empty for the immediate future.

"We don't have any specific plans as of now, but hope to continue to place temporary sculptures in Civic Center Plaza in the future," Patterson said.

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