Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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Richmond Terrace btw Nicholas & St Peters

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 Pablo Neruda (1904-1973, b. Parral, Chile), the Nobel Prize laureate Chilean poet and politician, who was forced to go into hiding because of his prominent role in the Communist Party before fleeing to Argentina. Eventually, he was able to return to Chile under its Socialist rule, but circumstances around his death after Augusto Pinochet’s coup raise questions about whether his death might have been the result of his political views.

Photographer: Unknown (Mondadori Publishers), Date: 1963, Copyright: Public Domain.

Courtesy of the artist.

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