Bronze head of rooster

Installation photograph, Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (detail), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, August 20, 2011–February 12, 2012, © Ai Weiwei, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads Returns

May 26, 2021

We are excited to share that 10 years after it was first installed at LACMA, Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads returns to the museum, where it will be on view for two weeks starting this weekend (May 29–June 13) on the Smidt Welcome Plaza. The installation of Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, made possible by the Long Family Foundation, coincides with a new exhibition, Legacies of Exchange: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Yuz Foundation opening later this summer. Featuring Huang Yong Ping, Wang Guangyi, Xu Bing, and more, the exhibition brings together works of Chinese contemporary art that spotlight encounters, exchanges, and collisions between China and the West. 

In 2011, LACMA presented Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, the first major public sculpture by Ai Weiwei. The installation comprises 12 monumental bronze animal heads that are re-creations of the famous zodiac sculptures that once adorned the Zodiac fountain in Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace), located just outside Beijing. The original sculptures, designed by European Jesuits and cast around 1750, were looted by English and French troops who took part in the destruction of Yuanmingyuan in 1860, during the Second Opium War. Ai Weiwei’s work comprises a monumental commentary on China’s tumultuous interactions with the West contextualized by the recent auctioning and repatriation of a number of the original fountainheads.

Following an extensive conservation process to restore and protect the sculptures, supported in part by the 2021 Collectors Committee, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads will be on view in Legacies of Exchange beginning July 4. Don't miss your chance to see them!

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