The striking installation titled “Safe Passage,” currently adorning the exterior pillars of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, contains nearly 2,400 life jackets worn by Syrian refugees who once made the perilous journey from Turkey to Greece.
The installation, created by the artist Ai Weiwei, is one of 40 pieces created by 21 artists from around the world for the exhibit titled “When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Art and Migration,” which will run from February 24, 2020 to May 24, 2020.
The artwork, which is making its United States debut, had a previous outing at Berlin’s Konzerthaus during 2016, as well as the Yokohama Museum of Art and the National Archives of Chile respectively.
Ai himself is a refugee after being exiled by his home country of China in 2015. He is not only one of the most visible human rights activists today, he is also one of the most celebrated artists worldwide.
The former mayor of the Greek island of Lesvos, Spyros Galinos, who served from 2014 – 2019, donated the life jackets to Ai in 2016 when the island became international news at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, with nearly one million people arriving on the island.
The installation could again bring the focus of the international media onto the beleaguered island of Lesvos and highlight the extraordinarily difficult situation surrounding the current refugee population there.
The international response to the Greek government’s handling of the situation has been varied, with the Amnesty International organization criticizing the Mitsotakis administration’s recently announced plans to build a sea barrier discouraging further refugees from arriving on the island.