Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads
Photo: Sontera Dresch
Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, 2012. Hermann Park’s McGovern Lake.
In partnership with City of Houston, Houston Parks & Recreation Department, Hermann Park Conservancy, AW Asia and Crozier Fine Arts
Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) brought the East to the West with the first major public sculpture by internationally renowned Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, titled Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. On view outdoors at Hermann Park’s McGovern Lake, HAA’s presentation of Ai Weiwei’s work was the only South and Midwest venue in the United States (U.S.) on the work’s international, multi-year tour.
Comprised of 12 monumental bronze animal heads, each weighing 800 pounds and standing roughly ten feet high, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads was Ai Weiwei’s re-creation on an oversized scale of the traditional zodiac sculptures that once adorned the fabled fountain at Yuanming Yuan outside Beijing. Erected in the 18th century, the original animal heads surrounding the fountain spouted water at two-hour intervals until 1860, when French and British troops raided the palace and looted the heads. To date, only seven of the legendary 12 heads have been recovered around the world; the location of the remaining five is still unknown.
Through his work, the artist brought to light questions of looting and repatriation, while extending his ongoing exploration of the “fake” and the copy in relation to the original.
The exhibit coincided with the April opening of Asia Society Texas Center’s stunning new Taniguchi-designed Texas headquarters, and, concurrently, Architecture Center Houston exhibited Ai Weiwei’s Five Houses, Thursday, April 19-Friday, May 25, 2012.