In “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost’s timeless poem, a character proclaims that “good fences make good neighbors.” Artist and activist Ai Weiwei challenges that logic—the same logic behind the rise of nationalism in our country and others—in his latest public art project of the same name. “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” is monumental in scale, with actual fences—and site-specific sculptures made out of fences—separating public spaces and putting viewers on opposite sides of the art. Stretching across all five boroughs through February 11, 2018, it’s likely you will find yourself locked in—or out, such is the duplicitous nature of border walls—by one of his fences, whether you like it or not.
In addition to the large-scale, security-fence installations throughout New York City—find them at the Washington Square Arch, the Doris C. Freedman Plaza at Central Park, and the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, among other locales—200 unique banners appear on lampposts, drawing attention to the international refugee crisis. Documentary images from Weiwei’s visits to national border areas and refugee camps appear on bus shelters and kiosks in the spaces usually reserved for paid advertisements.
The acclaimed artist knows a thing or two about the divisiveness born of arbitrary borders. He grew up in exile in China and then spent much of his adult life as an immigrant in New York, both as an art student and a working artist. He was famously arrested and detained by the Chinese government in 2011 to prevent the spread of pro-democracy demonstrations. In past years, Weiwei has completed a number of large-scale projects that reflect upon the current geopolitical landscape tackling issues of border surveillance, which he did in his most recent work, Hansel and Gretel, at the Park Avenue Armory.
As Nicholas Baume, director and chief curator of the Public Art Fund, puts it: The installation is “the culmination of Weiwei’s work to date, growing out of his personal experience as well as his extensive research on the international refugee crisis.”
Why You Should Go: This massive public art project is a chance to reflect on what it means to separate people—and come together with fellow New Yorkers in doing so. It’s also an opportunity to enjoy New York City’s amazing architecture and parks, which Weiwei has helped to reinvent in thought-provoking ways.
Ai Weiwei: “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”
Through Sunday, February 11, 2018