Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is world-renowned for making big statements about freedom, humanity, and the flagrant mistreatment of people by governments with his art. With works like Dropping A Han Dynasty Urn and Sunflower Seeds—which featured 100 million porcelain seeds hand painted by over a thousand skilled Chinese workers—Weiwei, who was detained by his government for months for his dissent, knows how to get a message across. And he now has big plans for New York City with one of his most ambitious projects yet.
Commissioned by the Public Art Fund, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors consists of 100 fences placed throughout multiple boroughs of New York City. Ten of them will be “major fence-themed installations,” Weiwei told Art Fix Daily:
I was an immigrant in New York in the 1980s for ten years and the issue with the migration crisis has been a longtime focus of my practice. The fence has always been a tool in the vocabulary of political landscaping and evokes associations with words like ‘border,’ ‘security,’ and ‘neighbor,’ which are connected to the current global political environment.
But what’s important to remember is that while barriers have been used to divide us, as humans we are all the same. Some are more privileged than others, but with that privilege comes a responsibility to do more.
He also told the New York Times:
When the Berlin Wall fell, there were 11 countries with border fences and walls. By 2016, that number had increased to 70. We are witnessing a rise in nationalism, an increase in the closure of borders, and an exclusionary attitude towards migrants and refugees, the victims of war and the casualties of globalization.
With a unique perspective, an intimate understanding of political persecution, and a style that focuses just as much on the perpetrators of oppression as it does on the victims of it, Weiwei's work is just what we need right now.