The sculpture is part of a series initiated in 1987, in the midst of the HIV/ AIDS epidemic. The Canadian collective appropriated fellow artist Robert Indiana's well-known LOVE logo by substituting the letters L-O-V-E with A-I-D-S in the exact same arrangement. This transformation was a deliberate move by General Idea to release their AIDS logo into the world, spreading the logo into a campaign entitled IMAGEVIRUS. Using advertising tactics, AIDS began to circulate quickly and widely through posters, postcards, stamps, wallpapers, and other ephemera and remains until today the group’s most visible and expansive project.
The majority of works from the AIDS/ IMAGEVIRUS series were realised before collective members Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal were diagnosed with HIV in 1990. After their diagnosis, the group continued to address the AIDS crisis by for example introducing the pill into their artistic vocabulary, thereby reflecting on the medical/pharmacological realities associated with the disease.
New temporary location
The sculpture was originally created at the invitation of the City of Hamburg in 1989. General Idea’s sculpture was installed outdoors, on the main shopping street of the city for the month of November as part of the exhibition D&S Ausstellung. Intended to be exhibited outdoors, the sculpture is supposed to collect graffiti, marks, traces and other detritus as part of a form of public dialogue.
Recently included as part of the General Idea retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2023), the work is now on display at the Amsterdam UMC (AMC location), a new temporary location with a particular significance. The hospital is home to the renowned Laboratory for Viral Immune Pathogenesis (LVIP), where the development of viral infections, in particular HIV infections, is being studied. In the hospital’s public park, patients, visitors, staff, and passerby’s have the opportunity to contemplate the work and leave their mark, write their names or memories onto the sculpture.
On loan from the Collection Hartwig Art Foundation (promised gift to the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed / Rijkscollectie), the work temporarily joins the display of the extensive collection of works from the Amsterdam UMC collection.
AIDS Sculpture (1989/2023)
Stainless steel, black varnish
Collection Hartwig Art Foundation. Promised gift to the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed / Rijkscollectie
General Idea was a collective of three Canadian artists, Felix Partz (1945 –1994), Jorge Zontal (1944 –1994) and AA Bronson (b. 1946), who were active from 1967 to 1994. The group questioned the production, distribution, and consumption of images through a variety of media. In doing so, General Idea often used humour and satirical strategies to draw attention to various aspects of consumer culture, mass media, social inequalities, queer identity, the art economy, and the AIDS crisis. As pioneers of early conceptual and media-based art, their collaboration became a model for artist-initiated activities and continues to be a prominent influence on subsequent generations of artists.
General Idea has recently been the subject of a large touring retrospective at the National Gallery, Ottawa (2022), the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2023) and Gropius Bau, Berlin (22 Sep. 2023 – 14 Jan. 2024), with several works on loan from the Collection Hartwig Art Foundation.