Copper in the Arts

August 2013

Cleveland Museum of Art presents Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads - August 01, 2013

Bronze sculpture Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (detail), 2010. Ai Weiwei (Chinese, born 1957). Bronze. Private Collection, USA.

Photograph courtesy of Tim Nighswander

The Cleveland Museum is currently exhibiting Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, an installation of twelve monumental bronze sculptures representing the animals of the Chinese zodiac by noteworthy Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, on view through October 6.

The inaugural exhibition mounted in the museum’s new Ames Family Atrium, a soaring, glass-enclosed piazza, Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads draw on the history of an 18th century zodiac fountain clock located in a Qing imperial fountain in the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. This space was destroyed during the Second Opium War (1856–60) and looted by invading Europeans, including the bronze fountain heads. Ai Weiwei reinterprets the heads in the context of looting and repatriation, as well as symbols of Chinese national pride, allowing visitors to question the ways history can be made to serve different purposes. 

“The multifaceted Zodiac Heads make for a bold and meaningful statement in the new atrium of the Cleveland Museum of Art,” stated Reto Thüring, associate curator of contemporary art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “The museum’s outstanding encyclopedic collection functions as a perfect backdrop for a work that raises the question of how we deal with the past and the sometimes complex relationships between East and West. At the same time, the monumental installation emphasizes the CMA’s commitment to prominently featuring contemporary art.” 

The suite of bronze sculptures has traveled on a world tour that has already reached São Paulo, New York, London, Los Angeles, Taipei, Houston and Washington, D.C. AW Asia Founder Larry Warsh and organizer of the Zodiac Heads: Bronze world tour, says "The Cleveland Museum of Art is home to one of the most outstanding collections of Asian art in the world, and we are thrilled that the Zodiac Heads are being exhibited at this ideal venue." 

Ai Weiwei is an artist and a social activist. His work encompasses the fine arts, curating, architecture and social criticism. Among numerous awards and honors, he won the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation in 2012, and was selected as Honorary Academician at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK in 2011. His recent major solo exhibitions include Ai Weiwei: According to What? at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2012), Ai Weiwei: Absent at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan (2011), Circle of Animals at the Pulitzer Fountain, New York, NY (2011), Interlacing at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland (2011), The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei at the Tate Modern, London, UK (2010), So Sorry at Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2009), and Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983-1993 at Three Shadows Photography Art Center, Beijing (2009). 


Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., Cleveland, OH, (216) 421-7350

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