BALTIMORE — Baltimore's four Confederate monuments that were quietly removed on one night in 2017 will now be exhibited in a Los Angeles art museum.
LAXART, a nonprofit "visual art space," confirmed that the Baltimore monuments will be part of a new display entitled "Monuments."
The museum's director, Hamza Walker, happened to grow up in Baltimore and attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.
"Monuments" project manager Hannah Burstein said in an email:
Baltimore's monuments touch on many different aspects of the national conversation surrounding Confederate monuments. Each is significant as an art object, having been made by prominent artists of the time and offer entry points to talk about historical memory, use of public space, and the Lost Cause. They are also significant because Baltimore is one of a handful of cities that removed their Confederate monuments following the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
The "Monuments" exhibit is set to open in the fall of 2023 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art). It "will feature decommissioned Confederate monuments displayed alongside existing and newly commissioned works of contemporary art."
LAXART plans to use upwards of 17 decommissioned monuments from cities including Boston, Charlottesville, Pittsburgh and Richmond. LAXART actually owns one of the statues; the museum bought a Stonewall Jackson monument from Charlottesville for $50,000 last year, reported Charlottesville Tomorrow.
Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered the city's four confederate monuments to be removed overnight in 2017. Without warning, the Roger B. Taney Monument in Mt. Vernon, the Confederate Women's Monument in north Baltimore, the Robert E. Lee and Thomas. J. “Stonewall” Jackson Monument at the Wyman Park Dell and the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Bolton Hill were taken down.
Museum director Hamza Walker grew up in northwest Baltimore and recalled attending Mt. Royal School in the 1960s, Arlington Elementary ("No. 234"), and remembered "Reisterstown [Road] and Hayward" Avenue.
He said, laughing, that his feelings about Baltimore "transcend thoughts... Baltimore is more of a feeling than anything else, I would say. I love Baltimore."
He noted that Baltimore and Richmond are the pillars of the exhibition.
I'm very proud to have Baltimore in the house.
He said it's an "exhibition to meet the moment" and will definitely be part of a national dialogue.
"We couldn't do it without the participation of the municipalities," he said.
Eric Holcomb, executive director of Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, said Baltimore has gotten more than 20 offers or requests for the monuments from various places, but for now, the monuments remain in the city, in an undisclosed location.
"Of course, we wanted to make sure that we found some permanent homes, that they were in good stewardship, and they were not going to be perpetuating the Lost Cause myth [of the Confederacy]," said Holcomb.
The city has turned down requests from theJefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, for example, he said.
Mayor Brandon Scott was ultimately "excited" to have the monuments be part of the LAXART exhibit, said Holcomb.
"The mayor wanted to be really careful and the city wanted to make sure that these monuments are treated properly, they are placed in a context or interpretation that really tells the true story," he said.
When the monuments return to the city, probably in 2024 or 2025, there is an opportunity to "continue the dialogue" by bringing back the contemporary artists' responses to the monuments, Holcomb said.
We may have the opportunity to bring the response pieces with them, and that may open the door for these things to be put in a museum.