Copenhagen: Lifejackets Once Again Turned Into Pro-Migrant ‘Artwork’

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AP/James Brooks

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — In the sun-soaked setting of Copenhagen’s Nyhavn harbour, there is a striking reminder of the ongoing migrant crisis taking place on Europe’s shores.

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has barricaded the windows of the Kunsthal Charlottenborg museum with more than 3,500 salvaged lifejackets worn by migrants and collected on the Greek island of Lesbos.

The artwork is named “Soleil Levant” — French for “Sunrise” and was inaugurated Tuesday, which is World Refugee Day.

“Obviously Ai Weiwei wants to put attention to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, or as he calls it, the human crisis,” says Kunsthal Charlottenborg director Michael Thouber.

“The beautiful thing about this piece is that every one of these lifejackets, 3,500 lifejackets represents a human story.”

The title is a reference to French painter Claude Monet’s painting “Impression, Soleil Levant” from 1872, which depicted Le Havre harbor and captured the political and social reality of the time.

Ai previously used 14,000 discarded life vests collected from the beaches of Lesbos to wrap the columns of Berlin’s Konzerthaus, and they were also used to create lotus blossoms floating in a pond in Vienna’s Belvedere Park — the work that made Thouber contact Ai and ask him to do something similar in Copenhagen.

“It was absolutely heart-breaking and breathtaking,” he says.

Last year, Ai withdrew his works from two Danish museums in protest against a new law that allowed the country’s authorities to seize valuables from migrants.

Kunsthal Charlottenborg says the artwork will remain on its facade until Oct. 1.


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