Jenny Holzer Designs New York’s First AIDS Memorial

An artist's rendition of the AIDS Memorial designed by Studio a+i. Photo: Courtesy Studio a+i.

Jenny Holzer is best known for her large-scale text installations, which have been displayed both temporarily and permanently in locations including Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and the lobby of 7 World Trade Center. But Holzer’s most recent project is a bit of a departure from the snappily-worded projections we’ve come to associate her with.

The artist will design a section of New York’s first AIDS memorial, which will be erected in the West Village as part of a new park near the former site of St. Vincent’s Hospital.

The memorial will feature a fountain and benches housed beneath an angular, metal trellis to be covered in foliage. On the paving stones beneath the trellis, Holzer will inscribe portions of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. The poem’s 8,992 words will spiral outwards from the fountain at the center of the enclosure.

“Whitman’s message of hope, of dignity in the face of death, of the glories of an embodied life, and of transcendence in the face of oppressiveness and tragedy,” Holzer said of her choice to use the poet’s work, “spoke to the requirements of the memorial and universalized them.”

The memorial’s design was created by the architecture firm Studio a+i, who won a national competition to fill the 1,600 square foot plot with a structure that would allow New Yorkers to quietly reflect on the lives lost to AIDS.

While the park’s green space will be made available for public use this summer, the memorial itself will not be unveiled until this December, aimed to coincide with World AIDS Day.

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