Michael Rakowitz

Behemoth II, 2024

Presented by KADIST in collaboration with San Francisco Fair & Dreaming in Public with Nato Thompson

Michael Rakowitz is an Iraqi-American artist who often works in public space, interrogating urbanism, architecture and memory. Behemoth II, his most recent work from the Behemoth series, is a meditation on the relationship between monuments in the US that have been removed and those that remain.  

The word monument is derived from the Latin verb monere, meaning “to remind,” “to advise,” and “to warn.” It is from monere that we also get words like demonstrate, to show something; remonstrate, to make a forcefully reproachful protest; and monster. Monsters have functioned allegorically throughout history, often sent from above as a warning to humankind. America’s public spaces are occupied by markers that function less as memorials than as warnings, sculpting centuries of settler colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism. 

A series of inflatable sculptures, titled Behemoth, invoke the redacted monuments shrouded in black tarps in cities like Charlottesville and Chicago. Perpetually rising and falling, it suggests the ongoing cruelty of deferral and debate around the removal of these monuments, and the desire to preserve them instead of the communities that continue to fight for liberation. Commissioned especially for the 2024 San Francisco Art Fair, Behemoth II takes the shape of the Ulysses S. Grant monument that was defaced and toppled in Golden Gate Park in the summer of 2020 during the George Floyd uprisings, and confronts the legacy of Grant.

About the Artist:

Michael Rakowitz is an Iraqi-American artist working at the intersection of problem-solving and troublemaking. His work has appeared in venues worldwide including dOCUMENTA (13), P.S.1, MoMA, MassMOCA, Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Palais de Tokyo, the 16th Biennale of Sydney, the 10th and 14th Istanbul Biennials, Sharjah Biennial 8, Tirana Biennale, National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt, Transmediale 05, FRONT Triennial in Cleveland, and CURRENT:LA Public Art Triennial. He has had solo projects and exhibitions with Creative Time, Tate Modern in London, The Wellin Museum of Art, MCA Chicago, Lombard Freid Gallery and Jane Lombard Gallery in New York, SITE Santa Fe, Galerie Barbara Wien in Berlin, Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, Malmö Konsthall, Tensta Konsthall, and Kunstraum Innsbruck, and Waterfronts – England’s Creative Coast. He is the recipient of the 2020 Nasher Prize; the 2018 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts; a 2012 Tiffany Foundation Award; a 2008 Creative Capital Grant; a Sharjah Biennial Jury Award; a 2006 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Grant in Architecture and Environmental Structures; the 2003 Dena Foundation Award, and the 2002 Design 21 Grand Prix from UNESCO. He was awarded the 2018-2020 Fourth Plinth commission in London’s Trafalgar Square. From 2019-2020, a survey of Rakowitz’s work traveled from Whitechapel Gallery in London, to Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Torino, to the Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai. Rakowitz is represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Jane Lombard Gallery, New York; and Barbara Wien Galerie, Berlin; Pi Artworks, Istanbul; and Green Art Gallery, Dubai. He lives and works in Chicago. 

After the presentation at Seattle Art Fair, Michael Rakowitz’s Behemoth II will be featured in Makeshift Memorials, Small Revolutions at the Blaffer Art Museum this fall.


KADIST is a non-profit contemporary art organization that believes artists make an important contribution to a progressive society through their artwork, which often addresses key issues relevant to the present day. Dedicated to exhibiting the work of artists—from more than one hundred countries—represented in its collection, KADIST affirms contemporary art’s role within social discourse, and facilitates new connections across cultures. Its local hubs in Paris and San Francisco organize exhibitions, physical and online programs, and host residencies. KADIST stays apprised of developments in contemporary art via a global advisor network, and develops collaborations internationally, including with leading museums, fostering vibrant conversations about contemporary art and society.

Image credits: Michael Rakowitz, Behemoth I, photo credit, Arturo Sanchez, Courtesy of Jane Lombard Gallery