Titled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, Ai’s work falls on PAF’s 40th anniversary and features 18 sculptural installations, 200 two-dimensional works, and 100 documentary images. Ai, who studied Western modern and contemporary art in New York City as a student in the 1980s, reflects current global geopolitics and international migration in his work.
Rendering of one piece in the multi-part Public Art Fund project Ai Weiwei: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors at Doris C. Freedman Plaza. (Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio/Frahm & Frahm)
Some of Ai’s installations, such as a metal cage under the Washington Square Arch, are site specific, whereas others, like a new series of more than 100 images found on JCDecaux bus shelters and newsstands, as well as LinkNYC kiosks, are not. With regard to the latter, the documentary photographs will be paired with quotes from poets and writers and will touch on global displacement. These will appear in all five boroughs, as will 200 lampposts banners that have images of displaced people on them.
As for the other large-scale sculptural installations, these can be found at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park; the Unisphere, at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens; 48 East 7th Street, East Village; 189 Chrystie Street, Lower East Side; 248 Bowery, Lower East Side; The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Astor Place; Essex Street Market, Lower East Side; and ten JCDecaux Bus Shelters in Downtown Brooklyn and Harlem.
“Ai Weiwei is unique in having combined the roles of preeminent contemporary artist, political dissident, and human rights activist in such a prominent and powerful way,” said Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator Nicholas Baume in a press release. “In many ways, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors is the culmination of his work to date. It grows out of his personal experience of ‘otherness,’ his distinguished practice as both artist and architectural designer, as well as his intensive research on the international refugee crisis and [the] global rise of nationalism. At the same time, his long and formative history with New York has been deeply influential in the development of this exhibition.”
Ai will create variations on the fence—from metal chain link to synthetic netting—to form interventions that adapt to their sites, as if growing out of urban space and changing how we relate to the fence and our environment.
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors runs through February 11, 2018.