THE PEOPLE, 2023, Light projection, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, DC, Text: Abraham Lincoln’s Lost Speech by Henry Clay Whitney, 1897. © 2023 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo: Filip Wolak

Jenny Holzer to project quotes about democracy in DC to celebrate Art in Embassies anniversary

The work will appear on the facades of two museums on the Mall, a “very resonant location for democracy in America".

The artist Jenny Holzer will project famous quotes about democracy, spoken by historical figures from Aristotle to Martin Luther King Jr., on the facades of the Hirshhorn Museum and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Titled THE PEOPLE, the project will launch at 6:30pm on 17 September and run for five days as part of the 60th-anniversary celebrations of the State Department’s Office of Art in Embassies.

The National Mall is a fitting site for the installation, because “it’s a very resonant location for democracy in America”, Megan Beyer, the director of the Office of Art in Embassies, told The Art Newspaper. The Mall has historically been used as both a platform for official government events (like inaugurations) and public protests, including the Civil Rights milestone March on Washington, which marked its 60th anniversary last month.

In a statement about THE PEOPLE, Holzer repeated the quotation she used by women’s suffrage activist Mary Church Terrell: “‘In union there is strength’ is a truism that has been acted upon.”

Art in Embassies, started by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, promotes American culture by commissioning works by contemporary artists to be displayed in US diplomatic buildings around the world, as well as by hosting exchanges and residencies. To celebrate its anniversary this year, Art in Embassies organised exhibitions in Athens, Lisbon and Geneva, featuring works by artists such as Sanford Biggers, Nick Cave, Deborah Kass, Maya Lin, Amy Sherald, Hank Willis Thomas, Doug Aitken, Jeffrey Gibson, Titus Kaphar, Christine Sun Kim, Bruce Nauman, Ed Ruscha and Carrie Mae Weems.

AuthorThe Art Newspaper