One of the world’s most controversial and well-known artists is bringing his art-activism to New York City.
Ai Weiwei, a Chinese dissident who was detained for almost five years in his native China, has repeatedly championed the cause of the refugee in his art and is bringing his latest installation to New York City on November 5 when his show “Laundromat” opens at Deitch Projects’ space at 18 Wooster Street in Soho.
The exhibition includes thousands of pieces of clothing, shoes and other personal belongings of refugees left behind when thousands were forced to evacuate the Idomeni camp in northern Greece along the border with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.
The artist gathered the abandoned personal belongings and took them back t his Berlin studio— saving them from being bulldozed away and preserving the memories of tangible items that once belonged to thousands of displaced people— a cause he has been championing for a while now.
He washed the clothing, ironed creases into pants and folded everything nicely, explaining in a New York Times interview that “I don’t like to see them dirty. No matter how poor we were, my mom would say, ‘Wash your hands.’ So, for me, it’s human dignity to be clean.”
The exhibition includes a short documentary about the plight of thousands of people at Idomeni.
This isn’t the first time Ai Weiwei has blended his concern for refugees with his artistic agenda and bring awareness to the plight of the refugees, particularly those passing through Greece.
In February 2016 he wrapped columns of a German concert hall in Berlin with thousands of bright orange life vests during the 66th Berlinale International Film Festival.
During the same month, his Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads sculpture exhibition in Prague was manipulated by the artist when he covered his sculptures in gold thermal blankets used by refugees after arriving on Greek islands.
In one of his most controversial moves, he recreated the scene on a Greek beach, posing in the exact way that the Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, was found in neighboring Turkey when his family’s boat capsized and his body was washed to shore.