In the summer of 2016, dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s monumental sculpture, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, added a compelling new layer to our magnificent Hall of Architecture. Comprising 12 bronze animal heads representing the traditional Chinese zodiac, Weiwei’s work 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 Weiwei. “It has many, many different layers—is it art or not art, and to what degree?”