Internationally renowned Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei was banned from leaving his home country for more than four years, but this past fall, a year after his passport was returned by police, he returned to New York with an unheard-of four gallery shows that all opened on the same day. As a metaphor for his personal travel ban–as well as the current political climate of the U.S., particularly as relates to immigration, and the global migration crisis–the Times shares news that Weiwei has been commissioned by the Public Art Fund for a major art installation opening in October. Titled “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” the piece will be one of his most large-scale public art projects ever. He’ll place 10 large fence-themed works and more than 90 smaller installations across Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, all in an attempt to bring attention to “a retreat from the essential attitude of openness in American politics,” as he explains.
Weiwei explained to Art Fix Daily, “I was an immigrant in New York in the 1980s for ten years and the issue with the migration crisis has been a longtime focus of my practice. The fence has always been a tool in the vocabulary of political landscaping and evokes associations with words like ‘border,’ ‘security,’ and ‘neighbor,’ which are connected to the current global political environment. But what’s important to remember is that while barriers have been used to divide us, as humans we are all the same. Some are more privileged than others, but with that privilege comes a responsibility to do more.”
His latest title refers to the Robert Frost work “Mending Wall,” in which the poet uses the line as a refrain. “When the Berlin Wall fell, there were 11 countries with border fences and walls,” Weiwei explains. “By 2016, that number had increased to 70. We are witnessing a rise in nationalism, an increase in the closure of borders, and an exclusionary attitude towards migrants and refugees, the victims of war and the casualties of globalization.”
Other recent New York exhibits by the artist have explored similar themes. One of his shows this past fall was at the Jeffrey Deitch gallery, where he filled the room with thousands of discarded garments from the Idomeni refugee camp. And the sculptures he showed at the Mary Boone Gallery and Lisson Gallery symbolized displacement.
The Public Art Fund commissioned his latest work to mark its 40th anniversary. Nicholas Baume, who’s been the organization’s director and chief curator since 2009, said, “This is the most ambitious that we’ve undertaken since I’ve been here. Certainly, it’s the most distributed throughout the city.” First lady of New York Chirlane McCray said, “Ai Weiwei pours his heart and soul into art that asks big questions and is not constrained by artistic and social traditions. [with “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”] he challenges us to think about the function and rationale for a common barrier. Given that the immigrant experience is at the core of what binds us as New Yorkers, the exhibition compels us to question the rhetoric and policies that seek to divide us.”
“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” will open on Octobre 12th. Some of the planned locations include Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, JCDecaux bus shelters in Brooklyn, Cooper Union, Essex Street Market, and Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the southeast corner of Central Park.
- Ai Weiwei and HHF’s Artfarm Displays Contemporary Chinese Art Inside an Agricultural Building
- Y-Shaped Guest House was Co-Designed by HHF Architects & Artist Ai Weiwei
- Take a Tour of the Only House in the United States Designed by Ai Weiwei
Tags : Ai Weiwei