Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze, 2010 (exhibited 2016)

Ai Weiwei

  • Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is based on the twelve bronze zodiac animals that once adorned a water clock-fountain sited in the elaborate European-style gardens of the Yuanming Yuan (Summer Palace). In 1860, during the Second Opium War, the palace was ransacked by French and British troops, and the heads were pillaged. Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is a re-interpretation of these animal heads that calls attention to the issue of looting and repatriation of art treasures.

  • Ai Weiwei is considered China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artist. His work explores culture, history, politics, and tradition, often blurring the lines between art and activism. A few of his best known projects are the National Olympic Stadium (“the Bird’s Nest”) for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing; @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz in 2014-15, a series of site-specific installations which raised questions about freedom of expression and human rights; and his plan to create portraits of freedom advocates using Lego bricks. Ai Weiwei’s work confronts the repressive acts of the Chinese authorities; his activities have caused him to be physically harmed and restrained from travel outside China.

    For more information about Ai Weiwei and his artwork, please visit