On October 2, 2019, the American artist Kara Walkerdebuted a 13-metre-high fountain in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Titled Fons Americanus, it was described by the museum as one of the “most ambitious” artworks in its Hyundai Commission series to date, and it was undeniably difficult to ignore.
The monument embodies themes that Walker has explored across her career as an artist, including “race, sexuality, and violence through the history of slavery”. And to tell a narrative on the origins of the African diaspora, it takes inspiration from the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace.
Right now, as many people continue to reevaluate their relationship to monuments, colonial history, and that history’s ongoing reverberations during worldwide anti-racism protests, Fons Americanus arguably seems even more relevant than when it was first unveiled.
Appropriate, then, that artwork from Walker’s Fons Americanus archive will also feature in Art Basel’s upcoming June edition of Online Viewing Rooms, which is opening up this month as many spaces remain closed due to coronavirus.
The new work on paper – a “monumental quadriptych” – addresses “the power systems of white supremacy that comprised the trans-Atlantic slave trade within Europe and America”. Alongside it, and also examining very timely issues about race, will be works from Deana Lawson, known for her highly-staged portraits.
Both artists’ work will be available for public viewing in the Online Viewing Rooms June 19 to June 26, alongside a range of 4000 works from 281 galleries across the world.