TIME Art

Banksy Parodies Girl With a Pearl Earring in New Painting

The new Banksy depicting the painting 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer is see on a wall in Bristol Harbourside, England on Oct. 20, 2014.
The new Banksy depicting the painting 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer is see on a wall in Bristol Harbourside, England on Oct. 20, 2014. Paul Green—Demotix/Corbis

Recent reports of the artist's arrest are a hoax

The famous and elusive street artist Banksy has parodied Johannes Vermeer’s famous Girl with a Pearl Earring in a new painting in the English city of Bristol. The artist posted a picture of the work, reportedly titled Girl with a Pierced Eardrum, to his website.

The painting, photographed from different angles on the site, features an outdoor alarm box as the woman’s earring, the BBC reports. Banksy previously graced Bristol with the painting Mobile Lovers earlier this year.


Though a report that circulated on Monday claimed the mysterious artist had been arrested, Bansky’s publicist Jo Brooks told British newspaper The Independent that the arrest was a hoax. The false reports of his arrest and a raid on his studio recycled details from a previous hoax.

Read next: You Can Now Afford To Buy a Work of Art by Banksy (Sort Of)

TIME Art

The Parisian Sex Toy Christmas Tree Is the Latest Great Art Scandal

'Tree' By Paul McCarthy - Monumental Artwork At Place Vendome In Paris
Paul McCarthy's artwork called "Tree" is seen at Place Vendome on October 16 in Paris, France. Chesnot—Getty Images

The American artist Paul McCarthy gets some Frenchmen aroused

The first time I saw a picture of the inflatable sculpture Tree, standing 79-ft. high (24 m.) in the Place Vendome in Paris, I thought it was an abstract version of your basic conifer – a Christmas tree reduced to its simplest signifier, a triangle-shape, like one of those pine-scented cardboard air fresheners that hangs by a string. Then I noticed the artist’s name, and I thought: “Oh, it’s by Paul McCarthy, so it’s actually a giant butt plug. In the Place Vendome.”

For those of you just entering the conversation, “butt plug” would be the term for a variety of sex toy the purpose of which is easy to figure. The term has now entered the lexicon of millions of people who didn’t know it just a week ago, largely because McCarthy’s sculpture made international news over the weekend when vandals disconnected its air supply and then cut the cables supporting it. Soon the tree toppled and had to be removed from the august plaza. By that time the sculpture, which was installed as part of Fiac, an annual Paris art fair, had become a cause célèbre on right-wing French media, where it was described as a deliberate affront to French culture. A week earlier, when the work was officially inaugurated, someone at the scene slapped the artist in the face and ran off.

Places, everybody — it’s time once again for an episode of that venerable social tradition, the art scandal. McCarthy is used to being at the center of them. A well-known Los Angeles-based artist, now 69, he’s made a career of violating taboos, opening the lid on dark boxes and wallowing, sometimes literally, in bodily fluids and excretions, or at least things that look like them. One thing we’ve known about him since his earliest videos in the ‘70s is that the man has absolutely no fear of ketchup. Or mayonnaise. Or excrement. A few years ago he produced another inflatable sculpture, sometimes called Complex Pile, that’s an unmistakable mound of the stuff. When it was displayed last year as part of an outdoor sculpture show in Hong Kong, it deflated in a sudden downpour. That’s what heavy rains will do to a pile of poop.

Artists have been fooling around with our bodily wastes and nether regions as the final frontier of the forbidden for a long time. Andy Warhol and his studio assistants made his series of Oxidation paintings by urinating on copper plates. In 1961 the Italian artist Piero Manzoni issued 90 sealed cans that carried the words Merda d’Artista – meaning Artists’s Shit. He claimed that each of them contained just that, though no one really knows, since they soon made their way into the international art market at high prices and no one is willing to open one to see what’s inside. That would turn their expensive artwork into… well, you know.

Why would an artist go there? For Warhol, pissing was probably a way to satirize the macho mystique of the Abstract Expressionist art that Pop Art had overtaken. For Manzoni, canning his own bowel movements — if that’s what he did — was probably his way of satirizing the art market. (Mission accomplished!) McCarthy’s motives have always been more complicated. The forbidden isn’t a sideline for him. It’s his consuming obsession. His life’s mission is to facilitate the return of the repressed. Like Karen Finley, the performance artist who mobilized cultural conservatives in the early ‘90s by smearing herself with chocolate and having intimate relations with a yam – and who surely knew McCarthy’s work — his videos are full of himself and his collaborators performing acts intended to gross out the viewer and violate taboos. Last year he mounted a giant multi-character performance art and video production in Manhattan in which a woman playing Snow White was sexually abused by demented versions of the Seven Dwarfs. (McCarthy has a thing about desanctifying Disney characters.) There was also an unspeakable act involving a roast chicken.

So Tree is one more example of McCarthy’s standard operating procedure. It’s also a way of lampooning the pretensions of monumental public sculpture generally, as Claes Oldenburg did almost 40 years ago when he created that giant steel clothespin for Centre Square in Philadelphia. Except of course, that was a clothespin, with its associations of clean laundry. McCarthy’s sex toy is all about the unclean passages of the body, which he then manages to associate with Christmas, simultaneously our most sentimentalized, commercialized and even politicized holiday. (The war on Christmas!) Tree isn’t even the first time McCarthy has conflated the Yuletide with a sex toy. In 2001 he made a sculpture of Santa flourishing one for the Dutch city of Rotterdam. The grateful citizens of Rotterdam balked at putting it in front of their concert hall, its intended site, but eventually found a less exalted place for it.

Ordinarily McCarthy’s work is installed in a museum or gallery, a kind of aesthetic decontamination chamber, where it’s viewed by an audience prepared for what they’re about to experience and willing to tolerate its gross content as part of the trade off necessary to seeing whether he has something to tell us about ourselves. But when his art escapes into the public square, the reactions aren’t always so measured. An artist devoted to provocation can’t be surprised if his work provokes. This is not meant to condone an act of vandalism against art – much less slapping around the artist. But McCarthy has a sense of humor. How could you not when you come up with the idea to put a giant sex toy in the Place Vendome? He must have loved it when no less a grande bourgeoise than Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, came to its defense. “Art has its place in our streets,” she said, “and nobody will be able to chase it away”.

Actually, McCarthy has decided not to reinflate Tree, at least not in Paris. Too much grief. But doesn’t that let the vandals win, to, as the mayor put it, chase it away? I say up the ante — bring in Complex Pile next. Why should Hong Kong have all the fun?

TIME viral

If Disney Characters Instagrammed, They’d Be Guilty of These Selfie Crimes

Artist Simona Bonafini created a series that will rock your childhood

The Little Mermaid always wanted to be a part of our world. And we live in a world of selfies — lots and lots of selfies.

Artist Simona Bonafini created a series titled “Selfie Fables” that imagines what your Instagram feed would look like if it were habituated by your favorite cartoon characters. And while it isn’t as disturbing as other Disney re-interpretations, Hercules and company are guilty of some selfie faux pas:

Shirtless gym selfies. We know this is going straight to Tinder:

Simona Bonafini

Bikini shots. There’s no need for #perfectbody thinspo…

Simona Bonafini

Instilling feelings of FOMO. Maybe your invite to the tea party went into your spam folder?

Simona Bonafini

Nothing is wrong with this selfie. Maleficent owns it:

Simona Bonafini
TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Accountability in education is essential and non-negotiable, and testing works. Just not in reading.

By Robert Pondiscio in Flypaper from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute

2. Carbon capture technology is costly, but could be an interim solution for climate change. And a carbon tax could pay for it.

By David Biello in Yale Environment 360

3. Immersive public art is improving lives and safety in one Detroit neighborhood — and serving as a model for other communities.

By Anna Clark in High Ground News

4. Presidential pool reporters are circulating their own news reports to bypass pressure from the White House Press Office.

By Paul Farhi in the Washington Post

5. Unregulated campaign cash and elected judges together undermine the independence of our judiciary.

By Norm Ornstein in The Atlantic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Fine Art

See This Incredible Colorful Art Created From Found Objects

Jane Perkins uses odds and ends to recreate famous portraits

lost-at-e-minor_logo

This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

Classic artworks and photographs have been given a very contemporary twist in Jane Perkins’ Plastic Classics collection. Instead of using paint or pencils, Perkins uses anything she can find to recreate these masterpieces, including toys, shells, buttons, beads, jewelry, curtain hooks and springs.

No extra color is added into the artworks either—everything you see in her work is used exactly as found, which is quite an amazing feat. Perkins says impressionist paintings are the perfect inspiration for her work since they need to be viewed in two ways: up close and from a distance.

Since Jane Perkins started making these works of art back in 2008, she’s found representation, showcased her work in galleries, and sold her work to buyers in London, New York and Singapore. Not a bad living for using odds and ends from around the house!

(via Blue Bower Bird)

MONEY Odd Spending

You Can Buy the Mona Lisa for $25,000

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, oil on wood
Is it real...or is it a Mark Landis? Fine Art Images—Getty Images

It's a forgery rather than the real "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci, of course. But the asking price is still pretty steep.

The world’s most famous portrait hangs on a wall at the Louvre. It’s not for sale, and it’s hard to imagine that it ever will go on the market. But perhaps the next-best thing went on sale this week, at a coffee shop in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood.

The Bedford + Bowery blog reported that a painting that some are calling the “Fauxna Lisa” is hanging on the wall at the Mercer Street Think Coffee shop. This portrait is most definitely for sale, with an asking price of $25,000.

Such a sum for what’s admittedly a forgery might seem absurd. Until you learn that the creator of this artwork, while not a household name like Leonardo da Vinci, is fairly famous—even infamous—in his own right.

The remarkably high-quality forgery was done by Mark Landis, a notorious art forger who has been profiled by the likes of The New Yorker and has done copies of artworks by sources ranging from Picasso to Disney. The quality of his reproductions has been good enough to fool dozens of museums, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Landis is also the subject of a new documentary called “Art and Craft,” and apparently the makers of the film approached Think Coffee recently with a proposal to hang Landis’s faux version of the “Mona Lisa” on the walls and sell it.

By one account, Landis completed the “Fauxna Lisa” in just 90 minutes. In a recent “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, however, the painter said that the reproduction of the “Mona Lisa” was the most challenging forgery he’s ever done. “It took me a whole weekend,” he wrote in response to a question on the forum. When asked how he was able to do such intricate work, and so quickly, Landis responded, “Well, it’s like a magic trick you know. If I told people, it wouldn’t be worth anything anymore.”

Surprisingly, Landis says that he has never benefited financially from his forgeries; in most cases, he simply donated them to institutions. He was busted (but not arrested) in 2010, and while it was originally reported that proceeds from the sale of his “Fauxna Lisa” were intended to go to the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, which is located in the Mississippi town where Landis is from—and which, fittingly, was duped in the past into accepting a forgery by Landis, a museum representative reached out to MONEY and said this is not true.

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that proceeds from the sale of Mark Landis's "Mona Lisa" forgery would benefit the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art. The museum's director of marketing said that this is not the case.]

TIME

This Six-Acre Portrait on D.C.’s National Mall Can Be Seen From Space

US-ART-MALL-JORGE RODRIGUEZ-GERADA
The landscape portrait, "Out of Many, One" by Cuban American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, appears on the National Mall, viewed from the Washington Monument, in Washington on Oc.t 1, 2014. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

It's by Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada

 

There’s a new face on the National Mall, but this latest installment in Washington can’t be seen from the ground. Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, who was commissioned by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and the National Park Service, designed a six-acre piece titled “Out of Many, One.” It’s a massive portrait made of sand and soil, its size rivaling the nearby Reflecting Pool. National Mall visitors may not be able to make out the face of the young boy from the ground, but the piece will be visible from the top of the Washington Monument–or perhaps, when they’re flying above the District.

New Interactive Portrait Creates Walk-Through Experience Among DC Memorials
Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada demonstrates how a ‘rover,’ or high-precision GPS marker, was used to create his six-acre sand and soil ‘facescape’ on the National Mall in Washington, Oct. 1, 2014. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

In an interview with the Washington Post, Rodriguez-Gerada described it as having “a Zen garden feeling as people walk through it and think, ‘Am I by the eye?’ ‘Is this the nostril? It’s a different way of trying to find where you are.”

TIME Art

See Stunning Photos of Frank Gehry’s Latest Building

The Fondation Louis Vuitton opens to the public on October 27

The unveiling of any major new building by Frank Gehry is always an occasion. But some of them — his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; his Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; his 76-story condo tower in Manhattan with its undulating stainless steel exterior —have been architectural game changers. His latest project, Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, which opens later this month in the Bois de Boulogne, may well be another of those.

It was commissioned by Bernard Arnault, the chairman and C.E.O. of the luxury goods company LVMH Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton, to serve as a cultural center and a museum holding work from the corporation’s collection of contemporary art. The 126,000 square foot (11,706 sq. meters) building delves further into the expressive gestures that Gehry developed for the Guggenheim and the Disney Hall. But where the billowing silhouettes of those were clad in titanium or stainless steel, the Fondation carries them out largely in glass. The word “soaring” gets applied a lot to Gehry’s virtuoso designs, but this one looks from some angles like it really is ready to take flight. See for yourself.

TIME society

World-Famous Violinist Joshua Bell Performs in Union Station

Joshua Bell performs in Union Station in Washington, D.C. on September 30, 2014.
Joshua Bell performs in Union Station in Washington, D.C. on September 30, 2014. Tessa Berenson

In 2007, Bell posed as a street performer in the Metro, and nobody noticed him. Today, he made sure everyone did.

At first glance, Joshua Bell’s violin performance in Union Station in Washington, D.C. Tuesday afternoon bears no resemblance to his famous subway performance seven years ago.

In 2007, as part of a social experiment for a Washington Post magazine article by Gene Weingarten, the renowned violinist posed as a street performer in the Metro to see if hurried commuters could recognize beauty in their midst. He wore a baseball cap, stood by the escalators in the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in D.C., and opened his violin case for tips. (The case, by the way, that normally houses his multi-million dollar Stradivari violin.) To make a long story short: almost no one noticed him.

Today, Bell is once again playing in a train station, but this time he’s made sure people will notice. His publicist Jane Covner said that it was supposed to feel “impromptu,” but there’s nothing spontaneous about this. The performance was publicized; there’s a designated area for press marked off with red velvet ropes, and there are chairs and microphones set up where Bell performs. People begin arriving over an hour before he’s due to play, and by 12:30, there are hundreds of spectators packed into the main hall of Union Station, sitting on the hard floor, trying to squeeze close to the front along the edges of the room, and some even climbing on construction scaffolding to see over the mass of people.

Compare this to the scene in the train station seven years ago, when in his piece about the stunt, Gene Weingarten lamented, “There was never a crowd, not even for a second.”

Today Bell is playing with nine students from the National YoungArts Foundation to promote an upcoming HBO special entitled “Joshua Bell: A YoungArts MasterClass” and his new Bach album out today. So while 2007 was, according to Weingarten, an experiment in “context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste,” today was all about Bell. His documentary, his album, his performance, his celebrity.

Weingarten took the stage first, appraised the hundreds, possibly thousands of people waiting patiently for Bell—some of whom had traveled from well outside the city to come see him play — and said, “This is a lot better than the first time. A lot better, trust me.”

Better, that is, because people were actually paying attention. This performance is “a do-over for the people in Washington,” Covner said. “Not a do-over for [Bell].” And some of those Washingtonians agreed. Weingarten asked for a show of hands how many people in the audience were some of the “morons” that passed by Bell in 2007; four hands went up. “We accept your apology,” Weingarten deadpanned.

Finally, Bell and his accompanists take the stage. They begin with the first movement of the Bach violin concerto. After the 2007 performance, Weingarten wrote, “There are six moments… that Bell finds particularly painful to relive: ‘The awkward times,’ he calls them. It’s what happens right after each piece ends: nothing. The music stops. The same people who hadn’t noticed him playing don’t notice that he has finished. No applause, no acknowledgment.”

Today, after first movement, the station echoes with booming applause, whoops and cheers. Bell beams as he says, “This is more like it!”

Then, looking out at the impressive crowd, he says, “The only thing I regret is we don’t have an open violin case for tips this time.” (Last time, he made a total of $32.17.)

But how can this performance really be seen as a redo of the last one? Yes, it’s in a train station (albeit a much finer one than L’Enfant Plaza), but the 2007 performance was about whether true artistry could be appreciated without fanfare in ordinary spaces. And while Union Station may not be a grand concert hall, today people came knowing they were going to experience something beautiful, which itself defeats the entire question Weingarten initially posed: “In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”

So today’s performance was not a redo; it was a reimagining. Bell didn’t like the answer he found last time, so today he created a different one. He wanted to prove that art could transcend, if only you give people a little nudge.

“I think the whole idea is that if you give people a chance to listen to music and let them concentrate, then it means something,” Bell told TIME afterwards. “And this shows even in a train station that people can be totally focused.”

Finally, almost a decade later, Bell got the answer he was looking for when he first donned his baseball cap and descended into the Metro.

“I thought of it as closure,” he says. “It was a perfect end.”

Then he laughs: “I don’t see myself ever doing this again.”

TIME Art

@Large: Inside Ai Weiwei’s Unprecedented Exhibit on Alcatraz

As part of his new exhibition, @Large, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei oversaw the construction of 176 Lego portraits of political prisoners, most still incarcerated as of June 2014. Katy Steinmetz for TIME

The Chinese artist's seven installations on America's most notorious island champion human rights and recall America's dark past

Inside the hospital wing of Alcatraz, which is typically closed to the public, there are two adjacent rooms the size of closets. Together they make up the entire space officials dedicated to treating mentally ill prisoners before the notorious penitentiary was shuttered in 1963. And thanks to the Chinese artist and rights activist Ai Weiwei, for the next seven months those rooms will be very loud.

This paltry psych ward now holds one of seven site-specific installations in four locations around the island that Ai – everyone calls him Weiwei – has taken over for a new exhibit opening Sept. 27. Cheekily titled “@Large”, the installations, which remain on view through April 26, are designed to use the setting of an infamous prison to explore issues of human rights, punishment and the loss of freedom.

In one of the two spartan rooms plays a loop of Tibetan chants, in the other an American Indian song intoned by the Hopi tribe—thumping tracks that resonate in one’s ears like voices might in one’s head. Both are meant to remind visitors of how confined and oppressed those peoples have been at times throughout history. The latter is also reminding America, in particular, about the imprisonment of Hopi men at Alcatraz who refused to send their children away to government boarding schools in the late 19th century. “That was the darkest time,” the National Park Service’s Michele Gee says about jailing the island’s earliest prisoners of conscience. Weiwei calls that particular piece “Illumination.”

There are plenty of impressive things to note about this unprecedented exhibition. One is that the 57-year-old Weiwei designed and built his elaborate pieces without ever setting foot on the island. A vocal critic of the Chinese government, Weiwei has not been permitted to leave the country since being detained for 81 days in 2011 on tax evasion charges that were brought against him after he had conducted a lengthy investigation of government culpability in the shoddy construction of schools that collapsed in China’s 2008 earthquake, killing thousands of children. Another is the installations themselves, like “Trace,” which consists of 176 portraits of political prisoners fashioned out of 1.2 million Legos; or “With Wind,” an intricate dragon that fills an entire room in the form of some 100 hand-painted kites that hang like dominoes from the ceiling.

This installation, “With Wind,” hangs in the New Industries Building, a place where privileged prisoners were allowed to work, pictured Sept. 24, 2014. Katy Steinmetz for TIME

Less obvious is how logistically complex the project was, which not only involved getting architectural plans and videos and photographs to the artist but also seeking the approval of government agencies going all the way up to the State Department. Though the project was first conceived in 2012, the actual assembly of @Large took just nine months. And the person who should be credited for putting all the works together so quickly (sometimes literally putting them together, after carrying them across San Francisco Bay by rented barge at night) is curator Cheryl Haines. Haines is a fixture in the San Francisco art world and executive director of a non-profit called For-Site, which exists to install ambitious art in unexpected places. And she is the person who suggested to Weiwei the idea of doing an exhibition in Alcatraz while visiting him in Beijing. “Of course it’s difficult for him that he doesn’t have personal freedom and that he’s not able to come,” she says, currently sporting blue hair in an attempt to keep her calm through the storm. “But Ai Weiwei is incredibly adept at understanding the built environment … and he welcomed the challenge.”

Less obvious still may be the fact that agencies of the U.S. government, which to some extent is lumped in with more egregious human-rights violators in the exhibit, would work so hard to highlight the dark underbelly of American history, from the treatment of American Indians to the dire conditions of Alcatraz in its days as a prison. Because of the not-always-great relations between the U.S. and China, the National Park Service, which oversees Alcatraz Island and its facilities, made the choice to seek permission from the State Department before giving a Chinese political dissident one of the nation’s most popular visitor sites to use as a stage. “We knew from the get go that his belief in self-expression and his values are part of his art,” says Greg Moore, CEO of the non-profit Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy that staffs Alcatraz. “Ai Weiwei takes us beyond the gangster years into something that’s not only part of our history but part of our present.”

In “Blossom,” Weiwei fills hospital wing amenities like sinks and bathtubs with intricate porcelain flower sculptures, pictured on Sept. 24, 2014. Katy Steinmetz for TIME

Also in the hospital wing is “Blossom,” which consists of porcelain flower sculptures snugly fit into existing amenities like bathtubs and sinks. The work, the curator says, might be interpreted as an offering of sympathy to those who are imprisoned or an allusion to China’s Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom Campaign in 1956, a time when free expression was briefly tolerated among citizens, before being abruptly and ruthlessly suppressed again. In the Dining Hall, the single exhibition space that is normally open to the public, Weiwei offers visitors the chance to send an actual token of sympathy to political prisoners who are still incarcerated in various parts of the world—via postcards that are covered in symbols and birds of the prisoners’ respective countries and are pre-addressed. Aides working on the “Yours Truly” installation — some of the 47 trained to guide visitors through the exhibition — will put the cards in the mail once they’ve been written.

“Yours Truly” is an installation of postcards that visitors can write to political prisoners, pictured on Sept. 24, 2014. Katy Steinmetz for TIME

Weiwei plays with sound again in Cell Block A, where songs and speeches of the oppressed or imprisoned play out of each cell. Inside is a spare stool for a listener to sit, and outside is the name of the prisoner. Installing the speakers required using a hallway behind the block, as Haines and her team were not allowed to remove so much as a screw on the vents from which the sounds of “Stay Tuned” emanate.

One of the most uncomfortable and eerie no-go zones that visitors will be let into for the exhibition is the gun gallery, a narrow hallway where armed guards once walked above rooms of prisoners, ready to shoot if necessary at a signal from an unarmed guard keeping watch on the ground. This is the walkway from which viewers will see “Refraction,” a sculpture that looks like a metal bird stuck in mid-flap, unable to fly under a suffocating ceiling.

Visitors to @Large will be let into the Gun Gallery of the New Industries Building, which is normally off limits, pictured on Sept. 24, 2014. Katy Steinmetz for TIME

Much of the challenge in getting @Large off the ground, Haines says, was making sure not to disturb even the broken glass in window frames of the historic buildings as the team installed Weiwei’s pieces. (The park did, however, install Plexiglass to protect people from the shards.) Part of the reason the exhibition is opening in September, after the height of tourist season, is that marine birds like cormorants nest there during the summer, and “ecological resources” were not to be disturbed either. Still, the exhibition has led to change on Alcatraz; for the first time there will be WiFi on the island, which the artist wanted so that people could share experiences of @Large on social media. And Moore says that letting people into the specially opened spaces may prove a “pilot” for permanently opening them in the future. There is also hope, Haines says, that the exhibit will lure more locals to join the roughly 1.5 million visitors who boat to the island each year, Bay Area residents who might have some money burning in their pockets that could go to the National Park Service or local arts programs.

The bright colors and delicate shapes of @Large somehow highlight the drab, sad conditions of the prison, like a child holding a bright balloon in the middle of a blackened, post-apocalyptic landscape. “If you look at the actual objects, they’re layered but beautiful,” says Haines, who previously worked with Weiwei on an exhibition in which various artists crafted abstract homes for native animals of the Golden Gate area. Ai chose sweet, cylindrical blue-and-white porcelain houses, and For-Site hung them temporarily in the forest for screech owls.

For this project, Haines spearheaded the fundraising of more than $3.5 million dollars, so that it would not cost taxpayers or the overburdened Parks Service a dime. It won’t cost visitors anything either; access is free for people who book regular tours to Alcatraz through April. If there’s demand, Haines says, they may also organize a special boat just for Weiwei pilgrims.

“With @Large, the conversation has broadened to encompass more types of human rights around the world,” she says. “We keep upping the ante, clearly.”

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