The Ringling is proud to present Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, June 9, 2017 – June 1, 2018


Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads was inspired by the fabled fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan, an 18th-century imperial retreat just outside Beijing. In 1860, the Yuanming Yuan was ransacked by French and British troops and the heads were pillaged.

Seven out of the 12 animal heads in the work are based on the original fountain examples that have been discovered – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, horse, monkey and boar. The remaining five are the artist’s reimagining of the currently missing artifacts – dragon, snake, goat, rooster and dog. The dual title of the work addresses the artist’s desire that the collection of sculptures be relatable on many different levels and to people who may not know the original history.

The 12 bronze Zodiac Heads stand on bronze columns. Each animal head measures approximately 4 feet high and 3 feet wide. The head and base together measure approximately 10 feet high and weigh nearly 1,200 pounds each. This group of works, including a smaller copy in gold, has been exhibited worldwide since the official launch of the Zodiac Heads in 2011, making it one of the most-viewed sculpture projects in the history of contemporary art.

Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads was created by Ai Weiwei and is on loan courtesy of a private collection. Special thanks to Larry Warsh.

Ai Weiwei
“Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Bronze,” 2010
Dimensions variable, approximate sizes:
Snake 118” high x 53” wide x 63” deep
Ox 128” high x 62” wide x 63” deep
Dragon 134” high x 66” wide x 77” deep
Dog 119” high x 53” wide x 68” deep
Monkey 119” high x 53” wide x 56” deep
Ram 120” high x 60” wide x 62” deep
Tiger 129” high x 53” wide x 62” deep
Horse 119” high x 53” wide x 61” deep
Rat 119” high x 53” wide x 63” deep
Rabbit 129” high x 53” wide x 63” deep
Pig 119” high x 53” wide x 67” deep
Rooster 144” high x 53” wide x 55” deep
Private Collection
Images courtesy of Ai Weiwei

Local support was provided by the Chao Ringling Museum Endowment and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Foundation.

The Ringling is a center for art and history, situated on 66 magnificent acres on the shores of Sarasota Bay. It is built on the remarkable legacy of circus entrepreneur, collector of art and financier John Ringling and his wife Mable.

The Ringling inspires visitors with an acclaimed collection of Old Master paintings, explores with them the diverse cultures and art of Asia, delights them with the story of the American circus as told through the first American circus museum as well as the world’s largest circus model, and transports them to the Roaring Twenties during a tour of the magnificenon.

The Ringling is also committed to exhibiting the work of an emerging community of living artists whose work moves beyond traditional practice and features dynamic and engaging contemporary visual and performing arts, including a diverse roster of theater, music, dance and film.

The Ringling is the State Art Museum of Florida. Affiliated with Florida State University, it is one of the largest university art centers in the nation.


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