ai weiwei: circle of animals / zodiac heads world tour
original content
mar 18, 2011
ai weiwei: circle of animals / zodiac heads world tour

ai weiwei
zodiac head – rooster
all images are installation views of ai weiwei’s ‘circle of animals: zodiac heads’ at the
são paolo biennale 29th
photographs by ding musa © AW asia

‘circle of animals / zodiac heads’ is the first major public sculpture project by chinese contemporary artist,
curator, architectural designer and social activist ai weiwei in which he has re-interpreted twelve bronze
animal heads, collectively representing the traditional chinese zodiac that once adorned the famed fountain-clock
of the yuanming yuan, an imperial retreat in beijing.

ai weiwei
zodiac head – dog

contrary to western astrology, which looks to stars as a means of predicting one’s fate,
the chinese zodiac is influenced by traditional concepts of the five elements (earth, fire, water, metal and wood),
yin and yang and ancient calendrical cycles.

with the traditional chinese zodiac, each year is represented by one of 12 animals:
boar, dog, dragon, goat, horse, monkey, ox, rabbit, rat, rooster, snake and tiger which rotate
through a 12-year cycle. according to the asian culture, the animal representing a person’s birth year
profoundly influences his or her personality and destiny.

ai weiwei
zodiac head – pig

the original twelve bronze animal heads were designed in the 18th century by two european jesuits
serving in the court of the qing dynasty emperor qianlong. together these twelve pieces functioned as a
water clock-fountain, which was sited in the european-style gardens of the yuanming yuan. the in 1860,
the yuanming was ransacked by french and british troops, and the heads were pillaged and what then remained
were only seven of the original zodiac heads. however, for his interpretation, ai weiwei has chosen to
provide a presentation that includes of all twelve, as one missing head makes a broken unit – an incomplete zodiac.

ai weiwei
zodiac head – rat

circe of animals / zodiac heads‘ were recently on display at são paolo biennale in brazil
and will embark on their world tour this spring, starting in new york at the historic pulitzer fountain
at grand army plaza near central park and the plaza hotel from may 2nd to july 15th, 2011.
soon after it will be shown at london’s somerset house where it will be the first contemporary art sculpture
to go on display on ground’s historic courtyard from may 12th to june 30th, 2011.

ai weiwei
zodiac head – ox




ai weiwei
zodiac head – tiger




ai weiwei
zodiac head – rabbit




ai weiwei
zodiac head – dragon




ai weiwei
zodiac head – snake




ai weiwei
zodiac head – horse




ai weiwei
zodiac head – ram




ai weiwei
zodiac head – monkey

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