Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals Zodiac Heads
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Los Angeles, California, USA
On view: August 20, 2011 - February 12, 2012
The installation is comprised of twelve monumental bronze animal
heads that are re-creations of the famous traditional zodiac
sculptures that once adorned the fountain clock of Yuan Ming Yuan,
the Old Summer Palace, located just outside Beijing.
Cast around 1750, the original animal heads were located at the
Zodiac fountain in Yuan Ming Yuan's European-style gardens, which
were designed by two European Jesuit priests in the eighteenth
century. In 1860, British and French troops looted the heads amid
the destruction of Yuan Ming Yuan during the Second Opium
Today, seven heads - the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, horse, monkey,
and boar - have been found; the location of the other five -
dragon, snake, ram, rooster, and dog - are unknown. In
reinterpreting these objects on an oversized scale, Ai stimulates
dialogue about the fate of artworks that exist within dynamic and
sometimes volatile cultural and political settings, while extending
his ongoing exploration of the "fake" and the copy in relation to
For Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, the twelve heads are cast
bronze and positioned on bronze bases, with each head and base
together standing approximately ten feet high. Each head weighs
approximately 800 pounds and measures approximately four feet high
and three feet wide.
Ai Weiwei is known for his engagement with Chinese history as a
shifting site rather than a static body of knowledge. His
adaptations of objects from the Chinese material canon going back
to antiquity, such as furniture and ceramic objects, are known for
their subversive wit, twisting traditional meanings toward new
purposes often by destroying the artifact in its original, pure
In April 2011 LACMA's 26th Annual Collectors Committee acquired Ai Weiwei's spherical wooden structure, Untitled (Divine Proportion). 2006.
Ai Weiwei was born in Beijing in 1957 and is the son of
acclaimed poet Ai Qing, one of the
country's finest modernist poets. Ai Qing's work appeared in nearly
every literature textbook until he was branded a rightist and
exiled to the countryside. Ai Weiwei's birthright was
simultaneously one of a cultural insider and a political
In 1978 Ai Weiwei became an early member of The Stars (Xing Xing), one of the first avant-garde art groups in modern China. In 1981, he moved to New York where he gained attention for his artwork that was based on transforming everyday objects into conceptual works. Returning to China in 1993, the artist cofounded the Chinese Art Archive & Warehouse, a non-profit gallery in Beijing where he still serves as director.
Ai Weiwei is a global artist with a global vision. He is one of the most transformative figures of our time. Truly a special person.../Larry Warsh ( friend and collaborative partner )
In 2002 Ai Weiwei invited 16 architects from around the world to design a pavilion for a park on a ribbon of land that stretches over 2 kilometers along the Yiwu River. Jinhua Architecture Park is dedicated to the memory of his father who was born in Jinhua. The 17th pavilion, designed by Ai Weiwei, is a small museum to hold Chinese ancient pottery.
The exhibition will be on view though February 12, 2012.
Last updated: December 10, 2012