Alum Michael Rakowitz Wins Major London Public Art Commission

ACT at MIT

Congratulations to VAP ’98 alumnus Michael Rakowitz, who has been chosen alongside Heather Phillipson as the next artist to design works for the Fourth Plinth site in London’s Trafalgar Square.

Rakowitz’s winning design is part of his project series The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (2007 — ), which has recreated over 7,000 archeological artifacts stolen from, or destroyed at, museums in Iraq during and since the Iraq War.

In London, Rakowitz will recreate Lamassu, a winged bull that stood at the entrance to the Nergal Gate of Nineveh in Iraq since ca 700 BCE and was later destroyed by ISIS in 2015 at the Mosul Museum. The Lamassu will be made from empty date syrup cans from Iraq, referencing a thriving national industry decimated since the onset of the Iraq War.

In a recent interview with Artnet News, Rakowitz reflected:

It’s the first time this project has been situated in a public space, and it’s happening when we are witnessing a massive migration of people fleeing Iraq and Syria. I see this work as a ghost of the original, and as a placeholder for those human lives that cannot be reconstructed, that are still searching for sanctuary.*

Rakowitz’s final design will be unveiled in 2018. Phillipson’s THE END —    a sculpture portraying a giant dollop of cream topped with a fly, a cherry, and a drone flying overhead —   will then take over the square in 2020.

The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist will be featured in an ACT-curated exhibit at the SA+P Dean’s Office Gallery, opening at MIT on April 26. The exhibition, In Our present Condition..., brings together work by 13 prominent alumni in the visual arts. It will be the opening event in ACT’s yearlong celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies.

*Source: Caroline Elbaor, “Michael Rakowitz and Heather Phillipson Win Upcoming Fourth Plinth Commissions: A replica of a sculpture destroyed by ISIS and dollop of cream with a drone will grace Trafalgar Square,”Artnet News, March 21, 2017.