‘Good Fences Make Good Neigh­bors’ by Ai Weiwei

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This Oc­to­ber, the Pub­lic Art Fund, New York City, presents Good Fences Make Good Neigh­bors, a timely ex­hi­bi­tion across mul­ti­ple bor­oughs by renowned artist Ai Weiwei. In­spired by the in­ter­na­tional mi­gra­tion cri­sis and tense so­ciopo­lit­i­cal bat­tles sur­round­ing the is­sue in the United States and world­wide, the artist has con­ceived this am­bi­tious, multi-site project as a way of trans­form­ing the metal wire se­cu­rity fence into a pow­er­ful artis­tic sym­bol. By in­stalling fences in vary­ing, site-spe­cific forms at lo­ca­tions across the city — in­clud­ing sites like the New York City Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion-man­aged Es­sex Street Mar­ket on the Lower East Side; The Cooper Union for the Ad­vance­ment of Sci­ence and Art on As­tor Place; JCDe­caux bus shel­ters in Brook­lyn in part­ner­ship with the New York City Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion; Doris C. Freed­man Plaza at Cen­tral Park; and Flush­ing Mead­owsCorona Park in Queens, both in part­ner­ship with NYC Parks, and nu­mer­ous oth­ers through­out the city — Weiwei will cre­ate strik­ing in­stal­la­tions that draw at­ten­tion to the role of the fence as both a phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion and metaphor­i­cal ex­pres­sion of divi­sion. In this way, he will ex­plore one of so­ci­ety’s most ur­gent is­sues, namely the psy­chic and phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers that di­vide us, which is at the heart of de­bates about im­mi­gra­tion and refugees to­day.

The ex­hi­bi­tion takes its name from the clas­sic Amer­i­can poem Mend­ing Wall by Robert Frost, which ex­plores the role and im­pulse for bound­aries in so­ci­ety, where tra­di­tion and habit of­ten mask fear and nar­row-mind­ed­ness. It is cu­rated by Pub­lic Art Fund Di­rec­tor & Chief Cu­ra­tor Ni­cholas Baume with the as­sis­tance of As­so­ciate Cu­ra­tor Daniel S. Palmer. Good Fences Make Good Neigh­bors is a con­cep­tual work that en­gages sub­jects of divi­sion and sep­a­ra­tion: po­lit­i­cal, so­cial, and per­sonal themes made lit­eral and vis­i­ble in the form of wire fenc­ing. Weiwei’s in­ter­ven­tions will ap­pear in un­ex­pected ur­ban con­texts across the city — on rooftops, in spa­ces be­tween build­ings, on bus shel­ters, as free­stand­ing sculp­tures, and more — as if grow­ing out of the ex­ist­ing ur­ban land­scape, while also chang­ing how we per­ceive our en­vi­ron­ment. Rather than im­ped­ing daily life, the fences will serve as metaphors in a city that has served as a gate­way to the United States for mil­lions of im­mi­grants.

Ai Weiwei: Good Fences Make Good Neigh­bors will be on view Oc­to­ber 12, 2017 – Fe­bru­ary 11, 2018 at sites through­out New York City.

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