Ai Weiwei Comes to Cooper Union

March 28, 2017

Ai Weiwei in Mexico, along the U.S. border in 2017. Photo courtesy of the Public Art Fund

The Public Art fund has announced that for its 40th anniversary they have sponsored a multi-site installation by renowned artist Ai Weiwei at locations throughout New York City, including The Cooper Union. Entitled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, the Public Art Fund describes the work as, "inspired by the international migration crisis and tense sociopolitical battles surrounding the issue in the United States and worldwide, the artist has conceived of this ambitious, multi-site project as a way of transforming the metal wire security fence into a powerful artistic symbol." The installations will be on view from October 12 through February 11, 2018.

Early designs for the Cooper Union installation indicate a fence installation in front of the north-facing balcony of the Foundation Building.

“I was an immigrant in New York in the 1980s for ten years and the issue with the migration crisis has been a longtime focus of my practice,” Ai Weiwei says about the work. “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. 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.”

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.