First Permanent AIDS Memorial Announced For London

Ryan Gander

London is on the threshold of establishing its first permanent AIDS memorial, marking a significant milestone in the city’s commemoration of those affected by the AIDS epidemic.

As the project gains momentum, a shortlist of artists has been announced, signalling a step forward in bringing this tribute to fruition. The proposed location for the memorial is historical. It is situated near the former site of Middlesex Hospital, where Princess Diana famously inaugurated the UK’s inaugural dedicated AIDS ward in 1987. This symbolic location serves as a poignant reminder of the early days of the AIDS crisis and the strides made in raising awareness and combating the stigma surrounding the disease.

The initiative is spearheaded by Aids Memory UK (AMUK), a charity dedicated to honouring the memory of those lost to AIDS-related illnesses while also educating the public about the ongoing impact of HIV/AIDS. Since its inception in 2016, AMUK has been advocating for the establishment of a permanent memorial to serve as a testament to the resilience and strength of affected communities.

A panel of judges, comprised of AMUK trustees, art historians, medical experts specializing in AIDS and HIV, and representatives from affected communities, has been tasked with selecting the winning artist from a pool of five shortlisted contenders. Each artist who lives or works in London brings a unique perspective and artistic vision to the project.

The shortlist includes Anya Gallaccio, Ryan Gander, Harold Offeh, Shahpour Pouyan, and Diana Puntar. Their diverse backgrounds and artistic styles promise to offer a range of compelling interpretations for the memorial, ensuring that the final artwork resonates with a broad audience.
The winning artist, whose identity will be revealed this summer, will be tasked with crafting a memorial that not only pays homage to those lost to AIDS-related illnesses but also serves as a beacon of hope and resilience for those living with HIV/AIDS today.

The memorial, which will be unveiled in 2026, will mark a significant moment in London’s history and its ongoing commitment to supporting and honouring those affected by the disease.
Ash Kotak, founder and artistic director of AMUK, expressed optimism about the project’s progress, highlighting the memorial’s importance in raising awareness and fostering understanding about HIV/AIDS. He emphasized the significance of the shortlist announcement, describing it as a “fascinating” step forward in the journey to establish London’s first permanent AIDS memorial.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has pledged £130,000 from the city’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm to support the memorial, underscoring London’s commitment to combating HIV-related stigma and supporting affected communities. Khan emphasized the importance of the monument in commemorating those lost to AIDS-related illnesses while also celebrating the resilience and strength of those living with HIV/AIDS today.

In addition to poignantly reminding people of the impact of HIV/AIDS, the memorial will also serve as a platform for education and reflection, ensuring that future generations understand the significance of the disease and the ongoing efforts to address it. As London prepares to unveil its first permanent AIDS memorial, the city stands poised to make a powerful statement about the importance of remembrance, resilience, and solidarity in the face of adversity.

Top Photo: Ryan Gander © Artlyst 2024

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