Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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Banner 57

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W 56 St btw 5 & 6 Ave

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 one of the most influential thinkers of the 19th Century, Karl Marx (1818-1883, b. Trier, Germany), the Prussian political and economic theorist author of The Communist Manifesto. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, he was exiled numerous times, stateless for most of his life, and sought refuge in Paris, Brussels, and Cologne, before finally settling in London.

Photographer: John Habez Edwin Mayal, Date: ca. 1875, Copyright: Public Domain, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Courtesy of the artist.

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