The Washington Square Park installation would feature a 16-ft-high opening in the outline of two embracing people. Rendering courtesy Frahm & Frahm
We’ve been keeping close tabs on Ai Weiwei’s forthcoming art installation, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, since we first covered it back in March. The multi-borough project — part of the extensive programming connected to the 40th Anniversary of the Public Art Fund — will explore the symbolic and functional role of the fence as an “expression of division,” and addresses recent immigrant policy initiatives, in addition to the international migration crisis.
Roughly three hundred works are slated to arrive in places like Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the Doris C. Freedman Plaza and the Essex Street Market — however, controversy has surrounded one of the project’s proposed locations: the arch of Washington Square Park.
For some time now, the Untapped Staff has been holding its breathe as we waited for the final say on whether or not Ai Weiwei’s project would be approved for the location. Those opposed to the installation cited various reasons for their decision: from the lack of transparency and public input to the fact that the fence would ultimately take over the site of the 45-foot Holiday Tree, New York City’s oldest public Christmas tree display, which has been placed in front of the arch since 1924. Our very own arts columnist, AFineLyne, noted that “displacing the tree is a big deal.”
Back in June 2017, the Public Art Fund began outreach, meeting with community groups to address concerns and listen to public feedback. Its efforts seem to have paid off, as the installation was recently given the green light, following a community board No.2 Manhattan meeting, which took place on September 19, 2017. According to the resolution document, members of Community Board 2 decided with a 26-8 vote to allow Ai Weiwei’s work to be installed under the arch. The Public Art Fund, however, was urged to find an alternative location for the tree and to cover any additional costs associated with its move to a “nearby agreed-upon location.”
To fund the ambitious project, The Public Art Fund launched a Kickstarter campaign in August and raised $16,000 over its funding goal of $80,000. “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” will be on view from October 12, 2017 through February 11, 2018.