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Photo by Timothy Schenck
Photo by Timothy Schenck
Artist Ai Weiwei installed a fence around the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

As part of his “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” installation, artist Ai Weiwei has constructed security fences around well-known sites around the city, including the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Weiwei, who is Chinese but went to college in New York City in the ’80s, was inspired by the international migration crisis that has displaced millions from their homes. The point of the exhibit is to draw “attention to the role of the fence in dividing people.”

In addition to the sculptures, Weiwei will erect 200 unique banners around lamposts that feature portraits of immigrants from other time periods and 98 images from his recently released documentary titled “Human Flow.” Weiwei visited 23 countries to speak with refugees searching for shelter.

The structure at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, titled “Circle Fence,” consists of a low-perimeter fence around the Unisphere.

“Rather than impeding views of the historical site, the installation will emphasize the Unisphere’s form and symbolic meaning, engaging with the steel representation of the Earth by surrounding it with mesh netting strung around metal stanchion barriers,” the project description read.

Photo courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio

Photo courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio

Weiwei, a sculptor, architect, filmmaker, photographer, writer, publisher, curator and activist, was born in Beijing, China, in 1957. From 1983 through 1993, he lived in New York City, where he attended the Parsons School of Design.

The artist and activist has experience with displacement as his family was punished by the Chinese government for speaking out during China’s Cultural Revolution.

Weiwei’s father, poet Ai Qing, was named an enemy of the state and was exiled with his family to Shihezi, Xinjiang Province and was forced to clean communal toilets.

Weiwei returned to China in 1993, where he was a political activist as well as an artist. In 2011, he was arrested along with other high-profile activists in a government crackdown. His passport was also revoked by the government until 2015.

“As the epicenter of art and culture, New York City is the perfect canvas for Ai Weiwei’s work,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Ambitious projects like ‘Good Fences Make Good Neighbors’ foster cultural discourse, challenge us, and can bring about real social progress. We are thrilled to share our iconic public spaces with these bold installations.”

The exhibition is presented by the Public Art Fund, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The pieces will be up until Feb. 11, 2018.

 

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