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Paola Pivi

You know who I am

April – June 2022

On the High Line at 16th Street

Paola Pivi’s You know who I am is a large-scale cast bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty wearing various cartoonish masks. The masks, which will be changed over the course of the installation, are stylized portraits of individuals whose personal experiences of freedom are directly connected to the United States.

Learn more about Norbu, whose mask was featured on the sculpture April — June 2022:

Norbu (using a pseudonym to protect his identity) is one of six individuals whose likeness will grace the sculpture You know who I am over the course of its installation on the High Line.

Paola Pivi and Karma Culture Brothers, her husband, met Norbu in 2012. He was five years old, living at the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamshala, India. Norbu was a Tibetan refugee, living stateless and without identification papers.

Upon recognizing each other in a very emotional meeting, Norbu adopted the couple as his parents, who immediately started the process to legalize the adoption. The next four years were a particularly difficult journey for the three of them. The president of the Tibetan Children’s Village, Mr. Tsewang Yeshi, after initially starting the adoption process, changed his position and started to fight against it six months later, attempting to separate the boy from the family. The reasons behind this change in attitude remains unclear. In order to protect their family, Pivi and Karma filed, and won, a court case in India to prevent their child from being removed from them. Immediately after, they filed a second court case that ratified their legal adoption of Norbu in India.

In June 2015, Norbu, legally adopted in India by Karma, a US citizen, could begin taking advantage of the rights offered to him by the US. The most important right was that Norbu would become a US citizen himself immediately upon arrival in the US in his father’s custody (this was possible because of a streamlined process for foreign-born children of US citizens enacted in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000). In order to be able to travel to the US, Norbu was granted an immigrant visa as Karma’s immediate relative, as he was his son.

A visa is usually applied onto a person’s passport, but Norbu, who was still living stateless and therefore paperless, did not have one. The US Embassy in New Delhi prepared travel documents for Norbu: a letter written and signed on behalf of the embassy stating that Norbu was in fact himself, which could then be used to travel internationally and onto which a visa could be affixed. In stark contrast, Pivi’s homeland of Italy, would not grant any rights to Norbu as the adopted child of an Italian citizen because he was stateless.

Unfortunately, just days before his paperwork was completed to travel to the US, the Tibetan Children’s Village filed two more court cases against the family. By means of these pending cases, the Tibetan Children’s Village actively managed to block Norbu from leaving India for an additional year and a half.

In total, it took four years of legal battles while the family was living in India, with 135 hearings, in various District Courts, two High Courts, and the Supreme Court of India. In December 2016, the family finally won all the court cases, and Norbu was able to fly to New York to become a US citizen with all related rights and papers.

It is not difficult to imagine how much the small boy eagerly longed to move to the US and how intensely he dreamed of visiting the Statue of Liberty.

Learn more about You know who I am.

Artist bio

Paola Pivi (b. 1971, Milan, Italy) lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska. Recent solo exhibitions have been featured at institutions including Arken Museum of Modern Art, Ishøj, Denmark (2020); The Bass Museum, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida (2018); Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (2018); La Rinascente, Milan, Italy (2017); Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, Texas (2016); FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, France (2014); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2014); Witte de With, Rotterdam, Netherlands (2013); and Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2012). Public solo commissions include High Line Art, New York, New York (2012) and Public Art Fund, New York, New York (2012). Notable group exhibitions include Io dico Io – I say I, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome, Italy (2021); Trittico, Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2016); and Senso Unico, MOMA PS1, New York, New York (2007). Major international exhibitions include the Yokohama Triennial, Japan (2018) and the 48th Venice Biennale, Italy (1999).


Fonderia Artistica Battaglia aims to share their historical expertise in artistic bronze, initiating contemporary artists into the practice. You know who I am was Pivi’s first artwork cast in bronze; the team at Battaglia guided her throughout the fabrication process.

Paola Pivi, You know who I am, is made possible, in part, by an in-kind donation from Matteo Visconti, Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, Milan, and support from Perrotin and Massimo De Carlo; with thanks to the engineering firm Pro Iter, Milan.

The title You know who I am was conceived by Karma Culture Brothers.