Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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Cedar St btw Trinity Pl & Greenwich 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 Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992, b. Schoneberg, Germany), the German actress and singer famed for her femme fatale roles that challenged traditional notions of femininity. In 1930, Dietrich emigrated from Germany to the United States under contract with Paramount Pictures. Nazi officials requested her return to work on propagandist films in Germany but she actively refused, becoming an outspoken advocate against the Third Reich. During World War II, she earned American citizenship and contributed to the war efforts by establishing a fund to aid Jewish refugees and collaborating with the US government to sell war bonds.

Photographer: Don English, Date: 1932, Copyright: Public Domain, Paramount Pictures.

Courtesy of the artist.

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