As border relationships remain tense globally, Ai Weiwei’s new multi-site installations across New York—the city famous for that beacon of hope, the Statue of Liberty—use metal wire security fencing to stand for both the real and the conceptual walls we raise.
Commissioned for the 40th anniversary of the Public Art Fund and open October 12, 2017, through February 11, 2018, Ai’s Good Fences Make Good Neighbors comprises more than 100 fences throughout the city. Sites include the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side, Cooper Union, Central Park’s Doris C. Freedman Plaza, JCDecaux bus shelters in Brooklyn, Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Queens, and Washington Square Park.
Ai, who lived in New York in the 1980s, often makes work reflective of the plight of immigrants and refugees. His 2016 Reframe (see issue 56 of Public Art Review) covered two facades of the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence with 22 rubber dinghies used by Syrian refugees to cross the Mediterranean.
Referring to Good Fences, the artist told the New York Times, “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.” His powerful new project, whose title references Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” challenges us all to be better neighbors.