Mia’s formal front entryway is so elegant and unapproachable in its neoclassical grandeur that these days the museum seems to steer visitors away. It’s roped off as an entrance during winter; most visitors head directly to the Third Avenue lobby. That’s what made it startling this February when, suddenly, life jackets covered all six of the massive ionic columns.
The roughly 2,400 life jackets make up an installation by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei. All were abandoned on the beaches of the Greek island of Lesbos by Syrian and Afghan refugees fleeing to Europe. The installation, Safe Passage, is the new public face of Mia’s exhibition When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Art and Migration (now through May 24), originally presented at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston.
“I immediately connected that installation and our historic McKim, Mead & White façade,” says Mia curator and head of contemporary art Gabriel