Objections to Ai Weiwei installation: much ado about nothing?

A site-specific installation by Ai Weiwei for the passageway of the 1892 Washington Square Arch in New York, part of the artist’s upcoming city-wide exhibition Good Fences Make Good Neighbors (24 October-11 February 2018), seems to have ruffled some neighbors’ feathers. On 25 August, the president of the Washington Square Association community group, Trevor Sumner, addressed an open letter to the Public Art Fund, which is organising the show, to raise its objections to the planned installation. The letter alleges among other complaints that the work would interrupt annual holiday celebrations and that “[t]he project was not built with the collaboration of the neighborhood”. But according to a statement by the Public Art Fund’s president Susan Freedman, the non-profit has “been in close dialogue with [Sumner] to ensure that the tradition of the Christmas tree lighting ceremony moves ahead without interruption”, and has also met with community boards and neighbourhood groups throughout the planning process, including the Washington Square Park Association. (Freedman also says that Sumner “expressed excitement” about the project.) The Public Art Fund also plans to speak with residents at a Community Board meeting next week. Perhaps the groups can rally around the Christmas tree come December and share some neighbourly love.

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