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Ai Weiwei’s newest NYC installation will use fences to reflect on immigration, nationalism

The Public Art Fund-commission exhibit will go up on October 12 this year

A rendering of one of the installations.
Ai Weiwei Studio courtesy of the Public Art Fund

Artist and activist Ai Weiwei is setting his sights on New York City in one of his largest undertakings yet. Ai will create over 100 installations throughout the city this coming year relating to the theme of fences, the New York Times first reported.

Commissioned by the Public Art Fund in celebration of its 40th anniversary, Ai Weiwei: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors is a reflection on the growing hostility towards immigrants and the rise of nationalism throughout the world, according to Ai’s comments to The Times.

“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,” Ai said in a statement. “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.”

These installations will go up in locations across the city including the Essex Street Market, Cooper Union, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and the Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the southeast corner of Central Park. The sculptures will go on view starting October 12 this year, and will be found on rooftops, bus shelters, and the spaces in between buildings, among other areas.

“Ai Weiwei’s Good Fences Make Good Neighbors serves as a reminder to all New Yorkers that although barriers may attempt to divide us, we must unite to make a meaningful impact in the larger community,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “This expansive public art project that explores themes of freedom and the power of self-expression is a perfect symbol and reminder for all of us, especially in the current political climate.”

Aside from his artistic endeavors, Ai is also a vocal critic of the Chinese government, particularly its position on human rights and democracy. New Yorkers won’t have to wait until October to experience Ai’s work however. His collaboration with architects Jacquez Herzog and Pierre de Meuron on the surveillance-themed “Hansel & Gretel,” exhibit will be on view at the Park Avenue Armory starting June 7.

Ai’s installations for the Public Art Fund will be on display until February 11, 2018.