Monuments, Memory and Public Art

Washington Monument. Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

In awarding the 2010 Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art to Kirk Savage, the Smithsonian American Art Museum recognized his book Monument Wars as a “beautifully written and cogently argued book that recounts the creation and re-creation of the memorial landscape of Washington, D.C., where generations of designers, engineers and artists have given concrete form to the imagined community of the nation.”

Savage has been writing about monuments and public art for over 30 years, exploring ways in which monuments relate to selfhood, citizenship, and traumatic memory. In Monument Wars, he examines Washington D.C.’s monument-studded National Mall, and how it reflects changing ideas of space, public remembrance, and national representation.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is also celebrating another kind of public art: Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “Running Fence”, the 1976 installation in which the artists constructed an 18-foot high shimmering fabric fence along 24-1/2 miles of California land. In the exhibit and companion book Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence, the entire 42-month project unfolds in plans, photos, drawings, and the memories of the people who were there, and who contributed to an installation that stood for only 2 weeks, yet remains one of the most spectacular art events in worldwide memory.

The exhibit, “Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence“, is on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum until September 26.

Photo credit: Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

3 thoughts on “Monuments, Memory and Public Art

Comments are closed.