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Golden Cage under Trump Tower: Ai Weiwei honors New York, pro-migrant stronghold

Ⓒ AFP – TIMOTHY A. CLARY – | Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in front of his installation “Golden Cage” near the Trump Tower in New York, October 10, 2017

“Golden Cage” near the Trump Tower, portraits of migrants hanging on streetlights: after traveling through refugee camps and filming migrants around the world, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei celebrates New York.

He has disseminated more than 300 works on the streets of this American metropolis, symbol of par excellence of immigration.

“Good barriers make good neighbors”: this is the title of this exhibition which formally opens Thursday, until mid-February, in the form of a love letter to the world city, where Ai Weiwei lived from 1983 to 1993, and a new illustration of his empathy for refugees around the world.

“I had to pay back my love to this city,” Ai WeiWei told a press conference in Central Park, honoring “the city where every young artist wants to be”, where ” never foreign “.

The city, which wants to sanctuary against the policies of the administration of President Donald Trump to reduce immigration, makes it good. Its officials ostensibly supported this exhibition, organized by the New York association The Public Art Fund.

Ⓒ AFP – TIMOTHY A. CLARY – | A visitor in the “Golden Cage” of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei before her installation near the Trump Tower in New York, October 10, 2017

“New York is the perfect fabric for the work of Ai Weiwei” which “makes us think” and “promotes social progress,” said Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement.

The works arranged in Manhattan but also in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn by this versatile 60-year-old artist, probably the most famous Chinese artist in the world, are very diverse: monumental creations, vinyl flags representing illustrious migrants set at some 200 streetlights, fences discreetly backed by bus shelters, or clichés of refugees from all over the world, placed in spaces usually reserved for advertising.

– To please Trump –

A major project, located at the southeast entrance of Central Park, is expected to delight tourists.

The “golden cage” – this is its name – reaches seven meters in height. Orange rather than golden, it incorporates five giant metal turnstiles reminiscent of those of the New York subway.

It is visible from the heights of the nearby Trump Tower where Donald Trump lived in a triplex full of gilding until his departure for the White House in January.

“I made it golden to please him,” said the Chinese artist smiling, before denouncing a series of measures announced by the administration of the ex-tycoon of New York real estate.

Ⓒ AFP – TIMOTHY A. CLARY – | of the visitor in the “Golden Cage” of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in front of his installation near the Trump Tower in New York, October 10, 2017

“The migratory decree, the wall to be built between the United States and Mexico” are “unthinkable political measures,” said the artist who now lives between Berlin and Beijing.

“We live in a time when there is no tolerance (a period) of divisions, we try to separate ourselves according to our color, our race, our religion, our nationality,” he added.

Another monumental work: a cage with silver bars, erected under the arch of the Washington Square Park, a few cables from the apartment in the basement where the artist lived for some time.

But its cages and fences always have an open, almost soft side: one can enter the golden cage and cross the silver cage – named “Ark” – as pierced by a giant mirror. Or settle down like a hammock on its “300-meter long” circular barrier, made of ropes, erected at the foot of the “Unisphere”, a vestige of the 1964 World’s Fair.

But the artist, who was imprisoned for 81 days and then forbidden to leave his country of origin until 2015, no longer seems to want to target China and his government as a priority.

“The more I go, the more I realize that human rights are global, not just in China but around the world,” he said. “We must see humanity as the only one … we are all bound.”

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