For the commissioning series Public Figure, every year a contemporary artist is invited by the Antwerp Public Art Collection (Kunst in de Stad) to create an artwork departing from the question: Who or what do we put on a pedestal in today’s public space?
Antwerp-based artist Mekhitar Garabedian decided to elude a clearly figurative approach to this brief, and instead presents a semi-abstract sculpture. The volumes piled atop the classical stone pedestal are casts of compressed bulks of second hand clothes, which bring to mind the seriality and modularity of Minimal Art. Garabedian grew up in close proximity to this type of bulk: his father ran an international export company of second hand clothing. His paternal grandfather had been a rags salesman himself in Aleppo, Syria.
Based on this family lineage, the sculpture can be considered a memorial or monument to the artist’s forefathers and the economic activities they undertook in support of their families, as well as a tribute to rags – those which the West exports because of their low market value.
Fascinated by these large piles of clothing bales, which can appear as objects, sculptures and even as architecture, Garabedian has been documenting the many configurations that the bales can have.