Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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7th Av btw W 121st & W 122nd St

Ai Weiwei’s citywide exhibition uses existing elements of urban infrastructure as platforms for public art. Lamppost banners display a series of 200 portraits of immigrants and refugees. Unlike typical printed advertisements, the artist created unique double-sided banner portraits by cutting black vinyl to make images appear in the portions that remain. Their play of positive and negative space is analogous to the often-ambiguous status of refugees and migrants. The series encompasses many groups by spanning several periods and locales. It includes historic images from Ellis Island, photographs of notable refugees, formal portraits by Ai Weiwei’s studio from the Shariya camp in Iraq, and the artist’s cell phone photographs taken at refugee camps and national borders around the world. The banners portray people from varied backgrounds, yet each is presented in a consistent format, emphasizing their shared humanity.

This banner depicts Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849, b. Zelazowa Wola, Poland), one of the leading musicians of his time, who was forced to flee Poland after the 1830 November Uprising against the Russian Empire. Although he did not participate in the rebellion, he feared arrest because of his prominent position as a Polish Nationalist, and emigrated to France.

Photographer: Louis-Auguste Bisson, Date: ca. 1849, Copyright: Public Domain, Source: Ernst Burger: Frédéric Chopin. München 1990, S. 323

Courtesy of the artist

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