Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads
Ai Weiwei is arguably the most famous Chinese artist living today. Known primarily for his activism fueled work, the Beijing native often uses his art as a vehicle for free speech in China — a country where such a practice is not necessarily protected. But as a result of persecution from the Chinese government, Weiwei has expanded his horizons and taken some of his exhibits on the road. This includes his Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads installation that has been on tour across the world since its debut in 2010. From São Paulo, Miami, Toronto, Boston, Taipei, Mexico City, London, New York, Prague and Vienna, the exhibit is now headed to Denver.
The 12 bronze statues, each one representing a different zodiac animal, is a reinterpretation of a 18th-century water clock-fountain in China. Designed by two European Jesuits, the heads were eventually stolen in 1860 by French and British troops. The oversized remake calls attention to looting and repatriation as well as exploring the concept of fakes versus original artwork.
“Ai Weiwei is one of the most compelling figures working in the spheres of international art and political activism. His extraordinary range of creative articulation is unparalleled among his peers—from provocative large-scale museum exhibitions that reference traditional Chinese art forms, to candid Instagram posts at impoverished refugee camps around the world, Ai’s fearless spirit is widely recognized as the heart of his artistic practice. In recent years, Ai’s outspoken stance regarding freedom of expression and basic human rights for all people has established him as leader in the conversation concerning humanity today.”
-Taliesin Thomas, Curator