Does Philadelphia — the city with more public sculptures than any other — need another monument? Mural Arts Philadelphia, betting that the answer is yes, has collaborated with curators Paul Farber and Ken Lum in enlisting 22 artists to create symbolic artworks throughout the city this summer and fall for a project called Monument Lab.
The organization published details on some projects today. Missing from the list was a work by Ai Weiwei, the Chinese art superstar whose announced participation earlier this year drew plenty of attention.
"It didn’t work out. We're really disappointed," Farber said. "But we have a roster of artists we’re working with, and we’re going to move forward."
This is the second phase of the project, which launched in 2015 on a smaller scale. This iteration includes some other international art-world notables like Hans Haacke, who will be turning a vacant lot in West Philadelphia into an archaeological dig, and Tyree Guyton, who will create a work dealing with trauma and recovery in Kensington.
Also on the menu are more direct contemplations of the nature of monuments. One work will address the dearth of monuments to women in this city; another will pay tribute to African-American war veterans. In City Hall courtyard, Mel Chin will create a pedestal much like the one that supports the John Wanamaker statue just outside City Hall — but Chin's plinth will be accessible by ramp or stairs so that any Philadelphian willing to scale it can be honored there. And in Germantown, Karyn Olivier will "remix" a monument in Vernon Park by surrounding it with mirrors, so that whoever passes by the artwork becomes a part of it.
For the first time ever, Mural Arts — which receives funds from the city and from private donors and foundations — is running a Kickstarter campaign to help pay for this work, with a goal of raising $50,000. The events kick off July 1 at Franklin Square, with the debut of a work by Kara Crombie that will contain music loops and samples for the public to remix.