Taking cues from Hans Haacke’s sculpture Gift Horse (2014), the panel The Plinth and Monumentality brought together artist Paul Ramírez Jonas; Kendal Henry, Director of Percent for Art at the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; and J. Meejin Yoon, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell University, to consider the forms and functions of monuments and memorials today. The conversation was moderated by Andrew An Westover, Keith Haring Director of Education and Public Engagement at the New Museum. Several of Haacke’s works, including Gift Horse, DER BEVÖLKERUNG [TO THE POPULATION] (2000–ongoing), and his 1993 Venice Biennale pavilion project, Germania, engage particular modes of monumentality and reflect on the creation and maintenance of national identity. In light of recent projects that reimagine the plinth and monumental art as sites for historical narratives of triumph or loss, the evening’s conversation focused on future possibilities for public art.
Beyond decisions about which monuments stay up and which come down, the panel considered what questions should be asked when designing a monument. In a time when commemorative monuments face heightened scrutiny, how might architects and artists consider liberatory, performative, or ephemeral modes of monument-making? What civic structures can best support new visions for public commemoration? How might a diverse public be ethically and productively engaged in these considerations?