Lot 37
  • 37

Ai Weiwei

250,000 - 350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Ai Weiwei
  • Zodiac Head - Dragon
  • gilded bronze
  • 36 x 18 3/4 x 25 in. 91.4 x 47.6 x 63.5 cm.
  • Executed in 2010, this work is number one from an edition of eight plus four artist's proofs and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.


The Artist
Private Collection (acquired from the above)

Catalogue Note

Fast becoming Ai Weiwei’s most iconic series, Zodiac Heads/Circle of Animals now forms a significant international project. Since the inaugural installation of Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze in New York at the historic Pulitzer Fountain in 2011, editions from the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold series – of which the present Dragon work is the supreme constituent – have been exhibited in international public collections across the world. Subsequent venues have included: Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (May - September 2012); Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (February - July 2012); The Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas, Texas (September 2013 - March 2014); Garage Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow (February - March 2014); Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (April - July 2014); Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire (October 2014 - April 2015); Palm Springs Museum of Art (December 2014 - May 2015); Portland Art Museum (May - September 2015); and the Arken Museum of Modern Art, Skovvej, Denmark , where an edition of the piece remains on long-term loan from 2013-2019. 

This project simultaneously signals Ai Weiwei’s position as China’s most internationally pervasive artist whilst exploring the themes of globalization and identity that guide his praxis. The series recreates the 12 traditional Chinese zodiac sculptures that adorned the Yuanming Yuan imperial fountain-clock in Beijing and were subsequently looted during the Opium wars.  The death of Chairman Mao in 1976, the demise of the Cultural Revolution which sought to destroy such artifacts, and the subsequent reopening of China’s economy all encouraged a renewed veneration of these objects domestically as well as a demand for them abroad. Thus subsequent attempts to sell or export these artifacts have caused intense controversy. Ai Weiwei’s exaggerated copies question ideas of heritage and cultural value by drawing attention to the inherently hybrid identity of the originals; they were in fact designed in Italy and cast in France for Qing the emperors who were themselves regarded as foreign.

As an outspoken critic of the Chinese Authorities, this project gained profound new dimensions in 2011 as it coincided with Ai Weiwei’s arrest at Beijing International Airport,  after which he was held for 81 days without official charges and denied exit from the country until 2015.  Out of these circumstances the wide-reaching scope of the Zodiac Heads/Circle of Animals has given the artist a crucial global presence that was otherwise denied. It is no exaggeration to say that today this sculptural series exists as one of the most famous and widely exhibited bodies of work in the world.