On the eve of one of the most heated and dividing elections in recent history, the art world staged its own political statement with the return of the dissident artist Ai Weiwei to New York. In four separate galleries—Mary Boone (uptown and downtown), Lisson, and Deitch Projects—the larger-than-life works by the Chinese activist will open to the public today.

With a sole focus on the refugee crisis—the primary topic he has been championing over the past few years—the artist brings attention to this theme in a variety of mediums, from legos to ancient wood to wallpaper.

“I don’t think people care. I really don’t think people care,” Weiwei says regarding the expected public response to his shows. “When you see thousands, even millions of refugees, the only conclusion you get is that very few people care. It’s not happening in one place, it’s not happening for one reason. It’s everywhere. Do they [refugees] have any hope? Their children? It’s a complete waste of a whole generation. I don’t think people get it.”

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