For Public Figure, every year a contemporary artist is invited to create a new artwork responding to questions about the meaning of public representation today. For this iteration, artist Goshka Macuga (Poland, 1967) makes a new sculpture that rejects the tradition of the lone hero on his plinth. Instead, the artist chooses to depict a surprising, trans-historic collective of five women whose lives and work shaped and changed society and the arts. Questions surrounding monuments, public intellectuals and the common good are of significant importance within the oeuvre of Goshka Macuga.
The new work pays homage to Chantal Akerman, Belgian pioneer cineaste and visual artist; Andrée Blouin, pan-African political activist and member of the first democratically elected government of post-independence Congo; Patricia De Martelaere, philosopher, professor and author; Marie Popelin, the first woman doctor in Law in Belgium and key-figure in the international women’s movement; and Mathilde Schroyens, the first woman mayor of Antwerp and reformer of the city’s education system.
Although many statues of religious and allegorical female figures can be seen throughout the city, Macuga’s new sculpture is the first ever artwork in the public space of Antwerp dedicated to historic women and their merits. The artist shows that the history of progress, resistance, and change is not made up of singular, isolated moments and figures, but of inclusion, solidarity, and generosity.