14K Refugee Life Jackets Now Cover Berlin Landmark

Ai Weiwei makes statement about Europe's response to refugee crisis
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2016 8:18 AM CST
14K Refugee Life Jackets Now Cover Berlin Landmark
Ai Weiwei lies face down on the beach on the Greek island of Lesbos, recreating the heartbreaking image of a 3-year-old Syrian child who drowned off Turkey.   (Rohit Chawla/India Today via AP)

Some 14,000 life jackets discarded by refugees entering Europe via the Greek island of Lesbos now adorn the six pillars of Berlin's landmark Konzerthaus concert hall. It's the work of Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, Quartz reports, who has been a vocal critic of Europe's handling of the refugee crisis. Since January, more that 84,000 migrants have arrived in Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration. Of those, at least 410 have drowned or are missing. More than 1 million migrants made the journey to Europe in 2015, with the vast majority of them coming by sea. More than 3,700 people died crossing the Mediterranean last year, per Quartz.

Officials in Lesbos say they gave the life jackets to Ai, CNN reports. The artist has spent a lot of time on the island in the last year—even setting up a studio there—documenting the dangerous journey refugees make as they flee conflict and poverty. “As an artist, I have to relate to humanity’s struggles," he tells the AP in an earlier interview. "I never separate these situations from my art." Recently, Ai recreated the photo of the Syrian toddler who drowned and washed ashore on a Turkish beach in September during his family's failed attempt to reach Greece, the Guardian adds. "It's an idea that came quite spontaneously," he tells CNN. "We had talked about the image of the boy, so I had that on my mind." (The artist is also partial to Legos.)

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