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Sam Durant


Public sites across Glasgow

17 May – 11 July 2021

Across multiple outdoor sites in the city, The Common Guild presented Sam Durant’s ‘Iconoclasm’ – a series of drawings depicting acts of destruction enacted upon public statues and monuments. Based on images gleaned from various historical and contemporary sources, including newspapers and television reports, Durant’s graphite drawings render moments of intense disruption and call on current debates about how we relate to symbols in public space. Produced here as large-scale billboards and street posters, the 14 original graphite drawings use a fugitive, labour-intensive form to document fleeting yet significant moments of historical change, commemorating the action. Their appearance in various sites around the city draws attention to questions of representation on our streets: who gets to occupy them and why.

Scenes depicted include religiously motivated acts of destruction from sixteenth-century European Protestants to contemporary Islamic fundamentalism; politically and culturally motivated acts of image-breaking such as the 1871 toppling of the Column Vendome in Paris, in which the artist Gustav Courbet participated, and against communist statues in Europe and Africa; the cultural revolution in China; removals of colonial statues in the Caribbean, Central and South America; and nationalist uprisings of 1956 in Hungary and Egypt, among others.

First exhibited in Detroit in 2019, Durant’s drawings are a reminder of the notion of a living history, reflecting humanity’s need to celebrate and commemorate, as well as the compulsion to destroy symbols of a past that come to be in conflict with current attitudes, concerns and awareness. The works are all the more resonant today, in light of the recent and on-going debates about public statuary, nowhere more so than here in the UK, where so many of our celebrated monuments commemorate battles fought on foreign soil and the repressive colonial actions of the British Empire. Given the current global rise in political polarisation, religious extremism and nationalism, this work presents a critical opportunity to explore humanity’s relationship with the symbols of the past and how to address them as society changes, as well as ways of reflecting on present-day image-making.

Artist Biography

Sam Durant (b. 1961, Seattle, Washington USA) lives and works in Berlin, Germany and Los Angeles, California, USA.

Durant is an interdisciplinary artist whose works engage a variety of social, political, and cultural issues that emphasise democratic ideals, racial equality and social justice. His works make connections with present and ongoing social and cultural issues, often taking up forgotten events from the past.

Durant’s interest in monuments and memorials began with ‘Proposal for Monument’ at Altamont Raceway (1999), continued notably with ‘Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument Transpositions’ (2005) that recontextualizes memorials to victims of the conquest of North America, and more recently with ‘Proposal for Public Fountain’ (2015), a marble work depicting an anarchist statue being blasted by a police water cannon. He has recently presented major public art projects, ‘Labyrinth’ (2015) in Philadelphia which addressed mass incarceration and ‘The Meeting House’ (2016) in Concord, MA that took up the subject of race in colonial and contemporary New England.

Durant’s latest public sculpture, ‘Untitled (drone)’, (2021) – a monumental fiberglass sculpture in the shape of an abstracted drone ¬– is the second commission for the High Line Plinth, New York City, and is on view from May 2021 until 2022. It raises the issues of drone warfare and surveillance in American society.

His work has been included in numerous international exhibitions including Documenta 13, the Yokohama Triennial, the Venice, Sydney, Busan, Liverpool, Panama, and Whitney Biennials. His work can be found in many public collections including Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris, France, UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, Project Row Houses, Houston, TX, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium, Tate Modern, London, England.

Durant teaches art at the California Institute of the Arts.

Read the review by John Quin in Art Review
Read the review by Rachel Harris-Huffman in The List
Read the review by Donald Butler in MAP Magazine

An online map detailing project locations is available here and below.

Sam Durant – Artist Talk
Sam Durant – 'Trope' Screening

The project and its associated events is part of this year’s Glasgow International Festival, taking place 11 – 27 June 2021.


Buy Sam Durant 'Iconoclasm'