Prague gallery marks 33 years since Tiananmen Square massacre with Pillar of Shame

Jens Galschiøt's Pillar of Shame was controversially removed from Hong Kong University, but the Danish artist presented a replica at DOX yesterday. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 05.06.2022 09:56:00 (updated on 05.06.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Danish artist Jens Galschiøt's Pillar of Shame, a memorial to victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre that bears the inscription "the old cannot kill the young forever," stood outside the Haking Wong Building at the University of Hong Kong for nearly 25 years.

Last December, it was controversially torn down by authorities. Galschiøt has since fielded numerous calls to install replicas of statue around the world, and has relinquished his copyright on the design so that anyone can recreate the statue as long as any proceeds go towards the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement.

Yesterday, Galschiøt presented a new replica of his Pillar of Shame in person atop the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague. The unveiling coincided with the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, which generally began on June 4, 1989. Estimates of up to thousands of people were killed by military forces in Beijing during the massacre, which followed weeks of student protests.

Galschiøt, who is also a performer and human rights activist, told reporters yesterday that he was inspired to get involved in the current pro-democracy movement thanks to the energy of the young people in Hong Kong that reminded him of the resolute protesters in Beijing 33 years ago.

The artist is also the founder of AIDOH (Art in Defence of Humanism), an initiative that focuses on provocative and socially critical art. His birthday also happens to fall on June 4, the primary date associated with the events in Tiananmen Square.

Galschiøt's Pillar of Shame depicts entangled bodies suffering under oppression, and bears inscriptions directly referencing the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The original eight-meter tall version of the Pillar of Shame was unveiled at Hong Kong's Victoria Park in 1997; after touring college campuses, it found a permanent home at the University of Hong Kong in early 1998.

Commemorative events were held at the statue annually to remember the Tiananmen Square massacre and its victims.

Galschiøt said he was "shocked" at the removal of the statue last December, and that he requested it to be returned to him as its rightful owner. That has not happened, but the artist has begun to install replicas in locations across Europe. Prague's version follows one presented earlier this spring at the University of Oslo.

A replica of the statue was also recently erected in Taipei, Taiwan, one of Prague's newest "sister cities".

A candlelight vigil held at the statue in Taipei this weekend was the only official event remembering the Tiananmen Square massacre in the Chinese-speaking world. The Hong Kong government closed portions Victoria Park, an annual location for vigils remembering Tiananmen Square, on June 3.

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