Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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Brook Ave btwn Third Ave and E 161st 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 Albert Einstein (1879-1955, b. Ulm, Germany), the Nobel Prize-winning German theoretical physicist famed for his theory of relativity. When Hitler stripped him of his academic appointment in 1933, he was forced to immigrate to the United States where he gained citizenship in 1940.

Photographer: Unknown, Date: 1920, Copyright: Public Domain, Source: The Solar Eclipse of May 29, 1919, and the Einstein Effect," The Scientific Monthly 10:4 (1920), 418-422, on p. 418 and ETH-Archiv

Courtesy of the artist.

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