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JR to create 25-foot installation in New York, depicting a line of immigrants


JR: An immigrant family views the Statue of Liberty from the Ellis Island Immigration Station dock
Courtesy of National Park Service, Statue of Liberty National Monument, U.S.A, 2014

Artist JR will bring his next monumental, politically charged installation to New York, depicting a line of immigrants. The artwork combines archival photos of people queueing at Ellis Island – the entry point to the US for over 12 million immigrants for 60 years – with the faces replaced by portraits of Syrians taken by JR at the Zaatari refugee camp in 2017.

Titled So Close, the large, black-and-white silhouettes respond directly to the global immigration crisis. The French artist recently caused a stir with his installation Kikito on the US/Mexico border, showing a Mexican baby peering over the fence. It came soon after Trump ended an amnesty programme for US residents brought illegally to the country as children.

So Close builds on JR’s Unframed series using borrowed photographs, and will, aptly, sit on the exterior of Pier 94 at the entry point to major art fair The Armory Show. It has been commissioned in partnership with online platform Artsy and curator Jeffrey Deitch, as part of the fair’s collection of site-specific installations around the theme The Contingent. The curator of the installations, Jen Mergel, describes the theme as conveying “the rise of collective action in the face of a prevalence of uncertainty”.