Finally, the High Museum of Art has acquired a major work by Atlanta expatriate Kara Walker. At almost 60 feet wide, The Jubilant Martyrs of Obsolescence and Ruin (2015) is a cut-paper silhouette in her signature style. The work was first shown in “Go to Hell or Atlanta, Whichever Comes First,” Walker’s exhibition at Victoria Miro Gallery in London in 2015. It depicts the Confederate Memorial Carving on the face of Georgia’s Stone Mountain, which features two Confederate Generals alongside Jefferson Davis. In Walker’s version, a naked lynched man with an erection straddles a rearing horse at the work’s center.
The Jubilant Martyrs won’t be on public view until the rehanging of the permanent collection in 2018.
Though the High did not disclose the work’s value, a similarly scaled piece sold at Christie’s in 2011 for $386,500.
According to a press release, Walker’s work “continues the High’s commitment to collecting artwork that explores the history of the American South and examines intersections of race, identity, human rights and social justice.” The High also owns two print portfolios by Walker.
High director Rand Suffolk said: “Like all of Walker’s work, this piece profoundly questions the resonance of our collective past while challenging us to consider what exactly will determine a shared future. These questions remain greatly important. The High is proud to play a role in encouraging dialogue around this work and the compelling perspectives it brings to light.”
“We are grateful to Kara Walker and to Victoria Miro Gallery for making this epic work available to the High and for the tremendous outpouring of support from the community to make this acquisition possible,” said Michael Rooks, the High’s Wieland Family curator of modern and contemporary art.
According to Walker, “The thing that has fueled my work since I started is this misremembered history, or a kind of flawed refashioning of history spelled out along deeply personal terms.”
Walker moved with her family from California to Stone Mountain, Georgia, when she was 13. She earned her BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994.