Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads Kept Under Wraps in Chicago

Ai Weiwei's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads in Chicago.
Photo: Courtesy AW Asia.

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei’s signature public art piece, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, is continuing its world tour and has touched down in Chicago just in time for Expo Chicago (see “Expo Chicago Breathes New Life into the Windy City Art Scene“). But the public installation of 12 bronze animal heads, now enjoying its 14th outdoor installment, comes with a twist this time around: The zodiac figures are all hooded, an allusion to Ai’s ongoing persecution by Chinese authorities, and the state of human rights more generally in China.

Installed outside Chicago’s famed Alder Planetarium for a full year.


Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads in Chicago.
Photo: Courtesy AW Asia.

A statement from AW Asia, the New York-based organization behind the international Zodiac Heads tour, explains:

Today the Adler Planetarium in Chicago will be the fourteenth venue to host the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze series, making it Ai Weiwei’s most well-travelled and internationally viewed work of art to date. While these twelve mighty beasts of the Chinese zodiac carry their power and impression to millions of people around the globe, Ai Weiwei remains metaphorically caged in China. These works have become a symbol of the artist’s resolve to keep his message current: unbridled free-expression for all.

The wrapped set of heads in Chicago reflect the same sense of importance as they did more than three years ago. The covered works suggest a commemoration of Ai Weiwei and his continued efforts to educate the world at large about his status. While Ai’s colossal animals are free to roam, the artist remains bound to the very land that has historically encouraged a Confucian spirit of “social engagement” with it’s government.

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