MCASD is honored to present the U.S. museum debut of Ai Weiwei’s topical and sumptuous Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold (2010). This gallery-sized installation is comprised of twelve animal heads, each depicting a segment of the ancient Chinese zodiac. The recent works by artist and activist Ai Weiwei reference a European version of the Chinese zodiac designed by Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione. The original sculptures, with their international connections, were built for an elaborate water-clock fountain at the imperial summer home of Emperor Qianlong, just outside of Beijing. In 1860 during the Second Opium War, the imperial gardens were ransacked, displacing the twelve zodiac heads. To this date only seven have been recovered. Continuing his work of re-interpreting cultural objects from his own fantasy and historical knowledge, Ai revisions all twelve zodiac heads. His work comments on the tension between what is “fake,” what is a “copy,” and what may constitute the better of the two.
Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and AW Asia, New York. The exhibition is made possible by a generous lead gift from Joan and Irwin Jacobs, and supporting gifts from Faye Hunter Russell, Valerie and Harry Cooper, and Sheryl and Harvey White. Additional funding is provided by Melissa and Michael Bartell, Olivia and Peter Farrell, Iris and Matt Strauss, and Karen and Don Cohn. Related programs are supported by grants from The James Irvine Foundation Arts Innovation Fund, and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund. Institutional support for MCASD is provided, in part, by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.