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Nick Fish

Commissioner, City of Portland

phone: 503-823-3589

fax: 503-823-3596

1221 S.W. 4th, Room 240, Portland, OR 97204

Golden animals

The Portland Art Museum has a wonderful new installation covered in gold.   


Created by internationally acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold consists of twelve golden animal heads, representing the traditional Chinese zodiac. 


The originals were designed in the 18th century by European Jesuits who served on the court of Emperor Qianlong in Beijing. The heads functioned as a water-clock fountain, and adorned an incredible imperial palace. 


In 1860, the palace was ransacked by British and French troops, and the heads were stolen. Today, five have been returned to China, while ownership of several others have been contested.


Weiwei’s installation engages issues faced by the original heads, including looting artworks, repatriation, and the importance of cultural heritage. 


The Portland Art Museum is funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s (RACC) General Operating Support program.


Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads: Gold is up through September 13.


Check out the RACC’s website to learn more. 

Photo courtesy of the Portland Art Museum.