David Adjaye’s first permanent public artwork among commissions for Counterpublic 2023 in St. Louis

Art Outside

David Adjaye’s first permanent public artwork among commissions for Counterpublic 2023 in St. Louis

Rendering of Mill Creek Valley commemorative monuments for Counterspace 2023 by Damon Davis. Pictured is the currently-under-construction Centete Stadium. the artist, Great Rivers Greenway and St. Louis CITY SC)

A “monumental earthwork” designed by David Adjaye located just a stone’s throw from the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing project site; a mile-long monument to a historic Black neighborhood razed decades ago in the name of “urban renewal; an augmented reality project emerging from the Mississippi River; and a constructed wetland complemented by public programming and a series of sculptures “focused on embedding ecological and racial repair.”

Beginning on May 15, 2023, a six-mile-long stretch of Jefferson Avenue in St. Louis stretching from the Southern Riverfront to St. Louis Avenue to the north will play host to 30 commissioned public art installations and architectural interventions—plus four permanent, site-specific sculptural works—as part of Counterpublic, a community-oriented triennial civic exhibition that “weaves contemporary art into the daily life of St. Louis.”

Held over three months every three years, this is the second (pandemic-delayed) edition of Counterpublic. The first iteration of Counterpublic was held in 2019 on and around Cherokee Street, a bustling nucleus of Hispanic and Latino life in St. Louis that’s also home to a number of galleries including The Luminary, the 15-year-old St. Louis arts incubator and event space that established the triennial event.

graphic of an art art exhibition map
(Courtesy Counterpublic)
graphic of exhibition curators
The 2023 Counterpublic curatorial ensemble. (Courtesy Counterpublic)

In addition to installations both ephemeral and permanent that will populate myriad public spaces, museums, parks and community gardens, and historic buildings located along Jefferson Avenue—a major, albeit short, St. Louis thoroughfare—for the run of the exhibition (and in some cases longer), Counterpublic 2023 will also feature performances, film screenings, AR experiments, talks and more featuring the involvement of emerging and established artists along with architects, activists, educators, organizers, community groups, and others. A catalog for the exhibition will also be published along with other complementary literature.

“Through these multi-disciplinary avenues,” a press release explained, “Counterpublic’s second edition will consider ancestral and infrastructural approaches to the exhibition, both the celebrations, settlements, displacements, and harms held in the accumulated legacies of the land, as well as what will be left behind after the exhibition cycle closes.”

Set to be installed outside of the Griot Museum of Black History, a northern anchor site for the sprawling exhibition, the Adjaye commission is the first-ever permanent public artwork by the celebrated Ghanaian-British architect. The other works mentioned above are by Damon Davis, Cannupa Hanska Luger, and Jordan Weber, respectively. (A complete list of the just-announced commissioned artists for Counterpublic 2023 can be found at the bottom of this page.)

photo of a large sculptural installation
David Adjaye, Asaase, 2021. © David Adjaye. (Photo: Dror Baldinger)
two people in a desert landscape wearing colorful costumes
Cannupa Hanska Luger, Future Ancestral Technologies: New Myth, 2021; Courtesy Garth Greenan Gallery and the artist. (Photo: Gabe Fermin)

“Though this edition of the triennial was delayed a year due to the pandemic, I believe our present moment of historical and cultural reckoning has magnified the issues of public memory and reparative approaches to the future that Counterpublic aims to address on a national scale and serves as the perfect environment in which to elevate the voices of the artists we have chosen to collaborate with,” said Counterpublic artistic director James McAnally in a statement. McAnally is also executive director and co-founder of The Luminary. (Fellow co-founder Brea Youngblood departed in 2019.)

The 2023 edition of Counterpublic is organized by McNally along with associate curator Katherine Simóne Reynolds and a “curatorial ensemble” including Allison Glenn, Diya Vij, Dream the Combine, New Red Order, and Risa Puleo. The team of co-curators was first announced this past June. Anchor partners and sites include Brickline Greenway + Great Rivers Greenway, the Griot Museum of Black History, The Luminary, Osage Nation + Sugarloaf Mound, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, and St. Louis CITY SC + Centene Stadium.

rendering ofa greenway with pubilc art
Rendering of Mill Creek Valley commemorative monuments for Counterspace 2023 by Damon Davis. (Courtesy the artist, Great Rivers Greenway and St. Louis CITY SC)
aerial view of a wetland landscape
Jordan Weber, Prototype for poetry vs. rhetoric (deep roots), 2021. (Image courtesy the artist and the Walker Art Center)

More on the Counterpublic’s 2023 discipline-spanning artistic cohort and the exhibition site along Jefferson Avenue can be found here.

Counterpublic 2023 artists

  • David Adjaye
  • Black Healers Collective
  • Black Quantum Futurism
  • Raven Chacon
  • Juan William Chavez
  • Damon Davis
  • Dream the Combine*
  • Torkwase Dyson
  • Jen Everett
  • Anita and Nokosee Fields
  • General Sisters
  • Matthew Angelo Harrison
  • Steffani Jemison
  • Ralph Lemon
  • Cannupa Hanska Luger
  • Mev Luna
  • Mendi + Keith Obadike
  • New Red Order*
  • Yvonne Osei
  • Tim Portlock
  • Jaune Quick-to-See Smith
  • Will Rawls
  • Vincent Stemmler
  • Maya Stovall
  • jackie sumell
  • Simiya Sudduth/Tha Muthaship
  • Jordan Weber
  • Santiago X

*Indicates participation in the Curatorial Ensemble