Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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E 53 St btw 5 Ave & Madison

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 Nina Simone (1933-2003, b. Tryon, North Carolina), the American singer, pianist, and civil rights activist. Simone emigrated from the United States to Barbados, England, Liberia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, before finally settling in France not only to escape a US arrest warrant for tax evasion—a form of protest against the Vietnam War—but also due to her experiences of racism in America.

Photographer: Gerrit de Bruin, Date: 1969, Copyright: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, Photo Courtesy of Re-Emerging Films.

Courtesy of the artist.

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