Washington Square E btw University & 5 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 Victor Hugo (1802-1885, b. Besancon, France), the French novelist author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Due to his outspoken political views, Napoleon III exiled Hugo from his native France, unable to return until later in life.
Photographer: Etienne Carjat, Date: 1876, Copyright: Public Domain, Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Courtesy of the artist.