In conversation about the hidden histories of American monuments, including the racism of sculptors whose work praises emancipation; the use of slave labor in monuments to liberty; and the potential futures for monuments.
Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973, Long Island, NY) is an Iraqi-American artist working at the intersection of problem-solving and troublemaking. He is the recipient of the 2020 Nasher Prize; the 2018 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts; a 2012 Tiffany Foundation Award; a 2008 Creative Capital Grant; a Sharjah Biennial Jury Award; a 2006 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Grant in Architecture and Environmental Structures; the 2003 Dena Foundation Award, and the 2002 Design 21 Grand Prix from UNESCO. He was awarded the 2018-2020 Fourth Plinth commission in London’s Trafalgar Square. His work has appeared in venues worldwide including dOCUMENTA (13), P.S.1, MoMA, MassMOCA, Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Palais de Tokyo, the 16th Biennale of Sydney, the 10th and 14th Istanbul Biennials, Sharjah Biennial 8, Tirana Biennale, National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt, Transmediale 05, FRONT Triennial in Cleveland, and CURRENT:LA Public Art Triennial. He has had solo projects and exhibitions with Creative Time, Tate Modern in London, The Wellin Museum of Art, MCA Chicago, Lombard Freid Gallery and Jane Lombard Gallery in New York, SITE Santa Fe, Galerie Barbara Wien in Berlin, Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, Malmo Konsthall, Tensta Konsthall, and Kunstraum Innsbruck, and Waterfronts - England’s Creative Coast. From 2019-2020, a survey of Rakowitz’s work traveled from Whitechapel Gallery in London, to Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Torino, to the Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai. Upcoming solo exhibition venues include Galerie Barbara Wien, Berlin; Stavanger Art Museum, Norway; and Green Art Gallery, Dubai. He was recently granted a commission for a public project on the topic of Archaeology and Migration Flows for the Municipality of The Hague. Rakowitz lives and works in Chicago.
Erin L. Thompson, who holds a PhD in Art History and a JD, both from Columbia, teaches at the City University of New York as America’s only professor of art crime. Her work analyzes the ways in which the deliberate destruction of art has sometimes harmed and sometimes benefited communities. Her book, Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of American Public Monuments (Norton, 2022) traces the turbulent history and abundant ironies of our monuments. She has spoken about monuments controversies with outlets including the New Yorker, New York Times, CSPAN, and “The Today Show.”