Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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Rodney St btw S 4 & S 5

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 Thomas Mann (1875-1955, b. Free City of Lübeck, German Empire), the Nobel Prize winning author who fled Germany to Switzerland and eventually to the United States after the Nazis came to power. During his time in exile, he made monthly radio broadcasts to speak out against the Nazi atrocities.

Photographer: Carl Van Vechten, Date: 1937, Copyright: Public Domain, Library of Congress. Courtesy of the artist

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