While controversy comes as little to no surprise to the most famous Chinese contemporary artist in the world, city governments are providing a new threat.
Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, known internationally for his humanitarian and more often political installations, announced his Fall New York City series: Ai Weiwei: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors. The series of installations will be installed in various locations throughout New York City in collaboration with the Public Art Fund, adding up to a total of over three hundred sculptures. While these locations are currently unknown, Weiwei has indicated that they with spread throughout all five boroughs from in-between buildings to in the middle of city centers. The installations will consist of various sculptures formed from metal wire security fences, providing powerful commentary on the social and political barrier in which we surround ourselves with. This overbearing rejection of socio-political ‘fences’ aims to achieve change by inciting emotions of self-revelation through stark awareness.
Weiwei is no novice to socio-political obstacles. In his home country of China, he is credited with playing an influential role in the conversion of art ideals from state-centric to self-expressionistic in the late 70’s. His continued political upheaval in China exposed Weiwei to the realities of a state controlled country, long lusting for democracy. His actions of self-expression were often met with governmental force, harassment, and imprisonment. Now living in the United States, Weiwei is facing obstacles once again and from an unlikely source. In his plight of fearless activism, the only force that could slow him is of equal activism. One of Weiwei’s premiere installations is planned to be installed in New York’s Washington Square Park, overseen by The Washington Square Association. While The Washington Square Association initially signed onto the project in March, they, unfortunately, wish to no longer participate. The call for cancellation comes following a slew of sentimental and evidently powerful complaints. Amid miscellaneous concerns mostly focused on the potential loss of a Christmas tree this holiday season, a stronger concern is the precedent that this project may set for public spaces in New York City’s future. While the project is still largely unfunded (you can support the Kickstarter campaign here), Weiwei likely will find a compromise with the association or move this installation to another site.
Ai Weiwei: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors will be on view October 12, 2017 – February 11, 2018 at various sites throughout New York City.