Ai Weiwei conceived this multi-site, multi-media exhibition for public spaces, monuments, buildings, transportation sites, and advertising platforms throughout New York City. Collectively, these elements comprise a passionate response to the global migration crisis and a reflection on the profound social and political impulse to divide people from each other. For Ai, these themes have deep roots. He experienced exile with his family as a child, life as an immigrant and art student in New York, and more recently, brutal repression as an artist and activist in China. The exhibition draws on many aspects of Ai’s career as a visual artist and architect, and is informed by both his own life experience and the plight of displaced people. In 2016, Ai and his team traveled to 23 countries and more than 40 refugee camps while filming his documentary, Human Flow.
“Good fences make good neighbors” is a folksy proverb cited in American poet Robert Frost’s Mending Wall, where the need for a boundary wall is being questioned. Ai chose this title with an ironic smile and a keen sense of how populist notions often stir up fear and prejudice. Visitors to the exhibition will discover that Ai’s “good fences” are not impenetrable barriers but powerful, immersive, and resonant additions to the fabric of the city.
This exhibition is curated by Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator Nicholas Baume with the assistance of Associate Curator Daniel S. Palmer.
About the Artist
Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 in Beijing. He lives and works in both Berlin and Beijing. He attended the Beijing Film Academy and later, on moving to New York (1983–1993), continued his studies at the Parsons School of Design. Major solo exhibitions include the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic (2017); Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy (2016); 21er Haus Museum of Contemporary Art, Vienna, Austria (2016); Helsinki Art Museum, Finland (2016); Royal Academy of Art, London, UK (2015); Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany (2014); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2012); Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan (2011); Tate Modern, London (2010); and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2009). Architectural collaborations include the 2012 Serpentine Pavilion and the 2008 Beijing National Stadium, with Herzog and de Meuron. Among numerous awards and honors, he was granted the lifetime achievement award from the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards in 2008 and the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation, New York in 2012; he was made Honorary Academician at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2011. He was given the Ambassador of Conscience Award by Amnesty International, London in 2015.
Partnering Sponsor: Frahm & Frahm
Lead support is provided by Jill & Peter Kraus, Jennifer & Matthew Harris, and Anonymous.
Major support is provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Charina Endowment Fund/Richard & Ronay Menschel, Kathleen McDonough & Edward Berman, Glenn & Amanda Fuhrman, and Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
Generous support is provided by Elizabeth Fearon Pepperman & Richard C. Pepperman II, Susan & Jonathan Bram, Jeffrey Deitch, Jennifer & Jason New, neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Red Crane Foundation, The Silverweed Foundation, Marcia Dunn & Jonathan Sobel, Robert Soros, Sheryl & Dan Tishman, Wendy Fisher, Patricia & Howard Silverstein, Lisson Gallery, Espolòn Tequila, Shari & Jeff Aronson, Elise & Andrew Brownstein, Meg & Bennett Goodman, Holly & Jonathan Lipton, Linda Lennon & Stuart Baskin, Heidi & Richard Rieger, Marcia Riklis, Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz, Bridgitt & Bruce Evans, Andrew & Linda R. Safran, Rachel & Sam Shikiar, and the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, New York.
Public Art Fund gratefully acknowledges the partnership of JCDecaux, UAP, Intersection, Thornton Tomasetti, AECOM Tishman, and FXFOWLE.
With special thanks to the Office of the Mayor, Office of the Manhattan Borough President, Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, Office of the Queens Borough President, Office of the Bronx Borough President, Office of the Staten Island Borough President, Council Member Margaret Chin, Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Council Member Daniel Garodnick, Council Member Corey Johnson, Council Member Mark Levine, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, NYC Parks, Department of Cultural Affairs, New York City Department of Transportation and DOT ART, NYC Department of Buildings, Mayor's Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management, NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, New York City Economic Development Corporation, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Landmarks Preservation Commission, FDNY, NYC & Company, Central Park Conservancy, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Lower Eastside Partnerships, and Essex Street Market Vendors Association.