MCASD to Show Ai Weiwei's Gold Zodiac Heads


MCASD will present the U.S. museum debut of Ai Weiwei’s topical and sumptuous Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold (2010). The installation will be on view in the Strauss Gallery of MCASD Downtown’s Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building from February 23 through July 29, 2012.

Twelve ornate, gilded animal heads comprise this gallery-sized installation, each one depicting a segment of the ancient Chinese zodiac: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The opulent objects sit atop custom-made wooden pedestals also constructed by Ai Weiwei, which seem to recall the artist’s earlier wood sculptures.

The museum’s curatorial team first saw the gold zodiac heads in Beijing in November 2010, and MCASD is the first U.S. museum to present the series. The exhibition at MCASD is the start of a traveling tour that includes domestic and international venues.

“We saw Ai Weiwei’s zodiac heads as he was creating them in his studio,” said Kathryn Kanjo, chief curator at MCASD. “We were attracted to their sparkling gold patina and museum scale, and we knew we knew we had to seize the opportunity to show this installation.”

The same zodiac figures featured in MCASD’s exhibition are also used in a larger scale bronze installation that has traveled to several locations since it was unveiled in Manhattan’s Pulitzer Foundation last May.

Hugh Davies, MCASD’s David C. Copley director and CEO, remarked, “We have a close relationship with Ai Weiwei, and presenting this installation is a continuation of our commitment to this artist over time, not only for his captivating work but for the way he’s expanded the possibilities of activism within cultural production.”

MCASD owns two of Ai Weiwei’s Marble Chairs, which Davies and Kanjo also saw in the artist’s studio on the 2010 China trip. The chairs were included in the Prospect 2011 exhibition and subsequently purchased by the museum. After the artist’s arrest at the Beijing airport on April 3, 2011, MCASD mounted a 24-hour protest to raise awareness of his detention and call for his release. A broad roster of staff, museum members, trustees, and community leaders took turns occupying two traditionally styled Chinese chairs for one-hour periods. The 24-hour sit-in was covered by national and international media.

Read the full press release.