Internationally acclaimed artist, and former Parsons student, Ai Weiwei recently inaugurated an immense series of multi-media works across New York City, entitled “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.” The two most prominent pieces that you may have already seen are a massive bird cage sculpture in Washington Square Park, and a bronze colored cage on the southwest corner of Central Park. Although these are both powerful and prominent pieces, the exhibit actually features hundreds of other subtle and striking works across the streets and boroughs of New York.
The titles of the series was inspired by a line in Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” poem, and the New York Public Art Fund notes that visitors will “discover that Ai’s ‘good fences’ are not impenetrable barriers, but powerful, immersive, and resonant additions to the fabric of the city.” These include pieces such as banners on lampposts, which feature portraits of immigrants and refugees that are meant to express the ambiguity of refugee status through their stylized vinyl printing.
Ai conceived this exhibit in collaboration with the Public Art Fund, which describes the collection as “a passionate response to the global migration crisis and a reflection on the profound social and political impulse to divide people from each other.” Ai himself has had personal experience with such migration, as his family was exiled from Beijing when he was only an infant. He has also been arrested by the Chinese government and was banned from traveling outside a China for a period of about four years.
Ai is outspoken in his political and social beliefs, and has consistently made art that responds to contemporary global crises. You can find an interactive map of every piece in the exhibit at the Public Art Fund website, and even share your own migration story. The exhibit formally opened on Oct. 12, but will be running through Feb. 11, so there’s still plenty of time to visit as many of the pieces as possible.
[Feature Image by Isabela Espadas Barros Leal]