Public Art Fund has announced that, starting next October, the largest public art exhibition by Ai Weiwei, titled “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” and comprising ten large installations featuring fences and many smaller works, will be spread across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Officially opening on October 12 and running through February 11, 2018, the sites for the project include Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Queens, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art at Astor Place in Manhattan, the Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the southeast corner of Central Park, and the JCDecaux bus shelters in Brooklyn.
The Public Art Fund’s director and chief curator since 2009, Nicholas Baume, said of the exhibition: “This is the most ambitious that we’ve undertaken since I’ve been here.” The title of the show itself is a reference to a line in Robert Frost’s 1914 poem “Mending Wall,” which repeats throughout the piece. Ai has stated that this work is a reaction to “a retreat from the essential attitude of openness” in American politics. “When the Berlin Wall fell, there were eleven countries with border fences and walls,” he said. “By 2016, that number had increased to seventy. 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.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said of the upcoming show that it “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 . . . New York City has long served as a gateway to the United States for millions of immigrants seeking better lives and has long benefited from their contributions and service in every neighborhood across the five boroughs. 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.”