Refugee life vests create dramatic scene at Minneapolis Institute of Art

The museum's front pillars have been transformed.
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Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The front entrance of the Minneapolis Institute of Art has been transformed by thousands of life vests wrapped around the museum's stone pillars.

The dramatic display is the work of world-renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, with the installation, called "Safe Passage" utilizing life vests worn by refugees fleeing Syria as they crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece.

Weiwei, himself a political refugee, collected the vests from the Greek island of Lesbos, and first revealed the installation at the Konzerthaus in Berlin in 2016, following it up with a stint at the Foam Museum in Amsterdam.

It's the first time it's been displayed in the U.S., becoming a stunning showpiece for a wider exhibition that looks at global migration.

Called "When Home Won't Let You Stay: Migration Through Contemporary Art," it will feature 40 works from 21 artists, including Kader Attia, Tania Bruguera, Mona Hatoum, Yinka Shonibare CBE, and Aliza Nisenbaum.

Another feature will be "CarryOn Homes," where artists from five countries tell the stories of immigrants and refugees in the U.S. through art.

Part of that exhibition will include the CarryOn Homes Living Room, which will provide a shared space for local immigrant and refugee communities "to access resources, connect, and have restful and healing conversations."

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And suspended above the museum rotunda will be a giant Hazmat chemical storage container, which has been turned into a drum and will play rhythms for the Dakota people.

The installation, called "Let Us Pray for the Water Between Us," is the work of artists Cristóbal Martínez and Kade L. Twist, with input from the Dakota community.

The "When Home Won't Let You Stay" exhibition will be found in the Target Galleries, running from Feb. 23 to May 24. More information can be found here.

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