Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads Exhibit in Jackson Hole
With many art galleries surrounding Jackson’s town square and located throughout the area, unique art isn’t a rarity in Jackson Hole. The local National Museum of Wildlife Art is constantly treating locals to an array of interesting exhibits and opening eyes to artists who depict wildlife in art, making Jackson a surprising hub from culture and art appreciation. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the international tour of renowned artist Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads,” includes a stop in Jackson. The show arrives in Jackson after being exhibited in Mexico City, Chicago, London, Toronto, New York, São Paulo, Taipei, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
From May 9 through October 11, 2015 Weiwei’s monumental, bronze animal head sculptures will be installed on the Museum’s Sculpture Trail, overlooking the National Elk Refuge. This striking installation is a reinterpretation of the animals of the Chinese zodiac, as they were depicted on the fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan in the 18th century. Each animal in “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” stands roughly ten feet tall and weighs between 800 and 1500 pounds, making for a quite formidable presentation.
Despite their overbearing potential, the animal heads seem almost to belong at their perch overlooking Jackson’s National Elk Refuge, where large and majestic elk and a variety of other other animals can often be spotted. In fact, the bighorn sheep depicted in the display, just one of 11 real animals plus one mythical dragon, can often be seen from the Elk Refuge road.
To fully take in the awe of “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” we recommend starting your day at the Museum’s Sculpture trail early, when the morning mist is still lingering on the Elk Refuge and the views are at their best. Of course, the stunning panorama viewed from the Museum’s sculpture trail creates a beautiful backdrop to the exhibit at any time of day. After taking in the sculptures and vistas, peruse the rest of the sculpture trail and then head inside the Museum to learn more about Weiwei’s installation. For a break, you can enjoy lunch with a view at the Museum’s Rising Sage Cafe and head back outside for a final look at the sculptures. If you still haven’t gotten enough, we recommend a ride down Elk Refuge road, or one of our safaris, for some wildlife spotting of your own that is sure to be just as impressive as the art.
Known for being a human rights activist, a cultural insider and a political outsider, Weiwei’s art typically is a political statement in itself. “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” draws attention to the international controversy regarding the original works, which have been in the possession of Europeans ever since Yuanming Yuan was looted and destroyed during the Second Opium War (1856–60).