Ai Weiwei’s monumental sculpture, Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads adds a compelling new layer to CMOA’s magnificent Hall of Architecture. Comprising 12 bronze animal heads representing the traditional Chinese zodiac

Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads

Hall of Architecture

One of the world’s leading political artists reinterprets a cultural and political remnant of China’s past

This summer, dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s monumental sculpture, Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads adds a compelling new layer to CMOA’s magnificent Hall of Architecture. Comprising 12 bronze animal heads representing the traditional Chinese zodiac, Ai’s work reimagines those that once adorned the famed fountain-clock of Yuanming Yuan, an imperial retreat in Beijing destroyed by the British in 1860. It debuted on the world stage in 2011 shortly after the artist, an outspoken critic of the communist regime, had been detained by Chinese authorities and held for 80 days.

Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads pays homage to China’s history while speaking to contemporary concerns. “It’s about the future and the past, and how China is looked at today and how it looks at itself,” explains the artist. “It has many, many different layers—is it art or not art, and to what degree?”

The expansive Hall of Architecture houses one of the few remaining cast collections in the world, filled with reproductions of classical facades and fragments from throughout the Western world. Likewise, Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads reinterprets a cultural and political remnant of China’s past. Together they create a one-of-a-kind immersive experience that brings together past and present, and underscores how cultural histories are retold.

This presentation complements the concurrent Andy Warhol/Ai Weiwei exhibition at The Andy Warhol Museum (June 4–August 28).


Exhibition Images

Ai Weiwei with zodiac head of a dog
Zodiac Head of a dragon
Zodiac head of a pig
Zodiac head of a Rooster

Exhibition Credits

The Zodiac Heads are on loan from a private collection. Support for Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads is provided by the E. Rhodes & Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Mary Boone, Agnes Gund, and John L. Thomson. Additional support for the exhibition is provided by Larry Warsh. General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.