Kara Walker: Fons Americanus

Hyundai Commission: Kara Walker

Tate
2019
Hyundai Commission at Tate Modern
Hyundai Commission: Kara Walker: Fons Americanus, Tate Modern 2019
Hyundai Commission: Kara Walker: Fons Americanus, Tate Modern 2019
© Kara Walker Photo © Tate (Ben Fisher Photography)

Hyundai Commission: Kara Walker: Fons Americanus

October 2 2019 – February 7 2021, Tate Modern

About the Exhibition

Kara Walker’s Fons Americanus presented an origin story of African diaspora and posed timely questions about what is remembered and what is forgotten in public monuments. Inspired ...

Kara Walker’s Fons Americanus presented an origin story of African diaspora and posed timely questions about what is remembered and what is forgotten in public monuments. Inspired by the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace unveiled in 1911 to honor the achievements of Queen Victoria, Walker’s soaring 13-meter-high fountain offers a powerful critique. Rather than a celebration of the British Empire, Hyundai Commission: Kara Walker: Fons Americanus questioned the usual function of memorials and the narratives of power they present. The fountain served as an allegory of the Black Atlantic, exploring the interconnected histories of Africa, America and Europe through fact, fiction and fantasy. Using water as a key theme, the artist referenced the transatlantic slave trade and the ambitions, fates and tragedies of people from these three continents. The full title of the work is painted on the Turbine Hall wall, written in Walker’s own words. Encouraging visitors to confront a history often overlooked in Britain, she presents the artwork as a ‘gift … to the heart of an Empire that redirected the fates of the world’.

Kara Walker (born in Stockton, in 1969) is renowned for her candid explorations of race, gender, sexuality and violence, from drawings, prints, murals, shadow puppets and projections to large-scale sculptural installations. Best known for her use of black cut-paper silhouetted figures, often referencing the history of slavery, her works have featured prominently in exhibitions around the world. Her first large-scale public commission opened in the derelict Domino Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn in 2014 and powerfully addressed the history of sugar production. Walker’s works are represented in major museum collections across the USA and Europe and a major survey exhibition of her work opened at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2007 and travelled to Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth. Other solo shows of her work have been held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, Camden Arts Centre in London and Metropolitan Arts Center (MAC) in Belfast.

Hyundai Commission: Kara Walker was curated by Clara Kim, The Daskalopoulos Senior Curator, International Art (Africa, Asia & Middle East), Tate Modern with Priyesh Mistry, Assistant Curator, International Art, Tate Modern and Petra Schmidt, Production Manager, Tate Modern.