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Chinese artist Ai brings new refugee-themed piece to Prague

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/16/2017
Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei poses by his installation displayed at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. A 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees prepared for the gallery, called "The Law of the Journey," is one of the artists biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) © The Associated Press Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei poses by his installation displayed at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. A 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees prepared for the gallery, called "The Law of the Journey," is one of the artists biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

PRAGUE (AP) — Chinese conceptual artist and political activist Ai Weiwei has placed his latest refugee-themed installation — a black rubber boat with 258 figures onboard — in Prague, the capital of a European Union country that has opposed the bloc's efforts to redistribute migrants among member nations.

An installation made by Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei is displayed at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. A 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees prepared for the gallery, called "The Law of the Journey," is one of the artist's biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) © The Associated Press An installation made by Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei is displayed at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. A 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees prepared for the gallery, called "The Law of the Journey," is one of the artist's biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

The giant piece, titled "Law of the Journey," attests to Ai's concern with the plight of migrants who embark on the dangerous journey to Europe by sea. He visited 20 refugee sites across the world, including the Greek island of Lesbos, an entry point for many migrants trying to reach western Europe from Turkey.

An installation made by Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei is displayed at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. A 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees prepared for the gallery, called "The Law of the Journey," s one of the artist's biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) © The Associated Press An installation made by Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei is displayed at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. A 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees prepared for the gallery, called "The Law of the Journey," s one of the artist's biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

"To refuse somebody so desperate is almost a crime," Ai told The Associated Press. "It's immoral, it's short-sighted, and it is not going to benefit this nation. We cannot lose our fundamental beliefs in human rights and human dignity."

An installation made by Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei is displayed at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. A 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees prepared for the gallery, called "The Law of the Journey," is one of the artists biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) © The Associated Press An installation made by Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei is displayed at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. A 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees prepared for the gallery, called "The Law of the Journey," is one of the artists biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

His largest piece so far, the 70-meter (230-foot)-long black rubber boat hangs from the ceiling at the National Gallery's Trade Fair Palace. The site-specific installation that went on exhibit Thursday was made in a Chinese factory that produces dinghies used by actual refugees, Ai said.

Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei looks into a glass ball which is part of his installation at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. Ai Weiwei has prepared for the gallery a 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees, called "The Law of the Journey," and it is one of the artist's biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) © The Associated Press Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei looks into a glass ball which is part of his installation at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. Ai Weiwei has prepared for the gallery a 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees, called "The Law of the Journey," and it is one of the artist's biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

The 59-year-old artist has exhibited similar works elsewhere. He used 14,000 discarded life vests collected from the beaches of Lesbos to wrap the columns of Berlin's Konzerthaus and to create lotus blossoms floating on a pond in Vienna's Belvedere park.

An installation made by Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei is displayed at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. A 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees prepared for the gallery, called "The Law of the Journey," is one of the artist's biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) © The Associated Press An installation made by Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei is displayed at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. A 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees prepared for the gallery, called "The Law of the Journey," is one of the artist's biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

The artist also posed as Alan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler whose lifeless body was famously photographed lying face-down on a Lesbos pebble beach. Ai was criticized for exploiting the child's tragic death.

Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei holds a press conference at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. Ai weiwei has prepared for the gallery a 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees, called "The Law of the Journey," and it is one of the artist's biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) © The Associated Press Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei holds a press conference at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, March 16, 2017. Ai weiwei has prepared for the gallery a 70-metre-long inflatable boat with life-size figures of 258 refugees, called "The Law of the Journey," and it is one of the artist's biggest work of art so far. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

More than 1.2 million people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe since 2015, data from the International Organization for Migration show. According to the European Commission, the Czech Republic has so far accepted 12 migrants for relocation.

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This story has been corrected to show the installation's title is "Law of the Journey," not "The Law of the Journey."

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