Isaac Julien, “Western Union Series No. 9 (Shipwreck—Sculpture for the New Millennium)” (2007), Duratrans image in lightbox 471⁄4 x 1181⁄8 inches (image courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York, photo by Isaac Julien)

Western Union: Small Boats, one of the most important video installations by acclaimed artist Isaac Julien, will be on view at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY, from February 12–May 31, 2020. Western Union, made in 2007, addresses migration across the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe in the early years of the 21st century. The work, which has received dozens of accolades and awards, powerfully evokes the trauma of clandestine passage — what it means to journey illegally from one place to another, from one culture to another.

Like all of Julien’s work, Western Union uses brilliant images to tell an often-chilling tale: the story of men, women, and children who crossed the ocean in small, overcrowded boats promising escape from Africa to Europe. While the installation explicitly focuses on the experience of migrants who attempted to cross the Mediterranean in and before 2007, it resonates in today’s world as nations attempt to enforce their borders against refugees escaping the ravages of war, violence, instability, terrorism, and famine.

“At a time when US immigration policies are generating controversy on a daily basis, the questions posed by Julien about the movement of bodies and the experience of migration make the subject matter especially compelling,” says Louise Yelin, Professor Emerita, Literature, Purchase College, SUNY, who co-curated the exhibition with Helaine Posner, Chief Curator, Neuberger Museum of Art.

The Neuberger Museum of Art is hosting an opening reception for Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats on February 12 from 4:30-7:00 pm. For further information, visit

“Isaac Julien, Western Union: Small Boats” is on view at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY (735 Anderson Hill Rd., Purchase, NY 10577) from February 12-May 31. The exhibition is organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art and co-curated by Helaine Posner, Neuberger Chief Curator, and Louise Yelin, Purchase College, SUNY, Professor Emerita, Literature, Purchase College.

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