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“It was nice, but very expensive.” Rather than return to China, he spent the next 10 years as a New Yorker, illegal immigrant, artist, and—as he describes it—student of the urban space.].The project came through research and my own early experience of living in and understanding New York,” Ai later told City Lab by email.

She approached him because she recognized his camera flash — Aziz Ansari was taking pictures at the 2017 Emmy Awards after-party with a film camera, not a digital one.

“I stood up, and I’m like tipsy at this point and feeling really confident.

Ai’s work first shifted to activism after he witnessed the devastating effects of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, and the 5,000 “nameless” schoolchildren who died inside a shoddily-made building.

Wanting more information than the government was willing to provide, he traveled to the disaster zone to document its human and structural tragedies.

Inspired by conceptual artists of the 1960s and ‘70s like Richard Serra and Gordon Matta-Clark, the project also pays tribute to the work of Marcel Duchamp, who frequently played chess in Washington Square Park—a destination Ai also haunted in his early days.

Arriving in New York in 1982 on a student visa, the artist attended Parsons for a year before dropping out.

Some places have changed even more dramatically, such as Beijing or Shanghai,” says the artist.

“Globalization contributes to all of these changes.

In Central Park, “Gilded Cage” is a series of turnstiles that conjure the physical constraints of refugees.

Washington Square Park’s “Arch” enables visitors to see themselves reflected in dual metal figures united in embrace, transforming the concept of the “security fence” into a symbol of unity.

When her plane landed back in New York the next day, she already had a message from him.

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