The Anthem Awards honors people, companies and organizations creating purpose & mission-driven work worldwide. To celebrate the inaugural season, we’re featuring groundbreaking artists and artwork from around the world and throughout the ages that have illuminated and contextualized important social justice issues, moved the culture forward, and made a lasting positive impact.
[Image Credit: David Maisel, The Mining Project]
Ai Weiwei – Life Jacket Installation
In February 2016, Ai Weiwei covered Konzerthaus Berlin with over 14,000 life jackets as a tribute to the refugees who died at sea in an attempt to escape war/poverty. Known for being unapologetic and even controversial in his activism, the artist’s bold message was a reminder that the global refugee and forced displacement crisis could not be ignored and that government policies needed to act and reform for humanitarian and refugee aid.
Marco Cianfanelli – Release
Marco Cianfanelli created his monumental fragmented portrait sculpture, Release, to mark the 50 year anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s capture. Built in the place in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands where Nelson Mandela was arrested by the apartheid police in 1962, Release is a powerful tribute to the revolutionary activist that calls for its viewers, and for our culture, to shift position, adjust, and rethink.
Can Togay, Gyula Pauer – Shoes on the Dunabe Promenade
Shoes on the Danube Promenade is a haunting symbol for the atrocities of antisemitism and fascism and a reminder of the thousands of lives lost to these ideologies. Film director Can Togay conceptualized the memorial and, together with sculptor Gyula Pauer in 2005, created 60 pairs of iron shoes that stand on the east bank of the Danube pointed towards the river, honoring the victims of the Arrow Cross rule. Today it’s considered one of the most moving holocaust memorials in Budapest.
Judy Chicago – Dinner Party
The 1979 opening of Judy Chicago‘s The Dinner Party marked the first time a mainstream museum opened its doors to feminist culture. The monumental work is an important icon of 1970s feminist art, and has become the Brooklyn Museum‘s most renowned artworks on permanent display.
Kristen Visbal – Fearless Girl
Fearless Girl is a bronze sculpture by Kristen Visbal that was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors as part of a broader push to get more women onto corporate boards. The roughly 50-inch-tall statue was first positioned in New York City defiantly before Wall Street’s iconic charging-bull, on the eve of the 2017 International Women’s Day. The public reaction was immediate, igniting a global conversation about the power of women and intersectional diversity in leadership.
Spike Lee – Do the Right Thing
Spike Lee‘s 1989 masterpiece #DoTheRightThing candidly confronted racism in America in a visually captivating, earnest, witty, chaotic, and heartbreaking story that essentially ushered in the 90s with fresh style and passionate social engagement. The film is also iconic, and haunting, for addressing systemic anti-Black violence unambiguously in a chilling climax inspired by recent cases of police brutality.
Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd – Non-Violence Sculpture
The bronze sculpture Non-Violence, also known as The Knotted Gun, was created by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd as a tribute to his friend John Lennon. The memorial holds an important place at the intersection of art and politics and has inspired global good for decades — including the Non-Violence Project Foundation’s efforts in preventing and reducing violence around the world.
Cleve Jones – AIDS Quilt
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is the largest piece of community folk art in the world. It was envisioned in 1985 by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones to represent the devastating impact of the staggering number AIDS-related deaths. He created the first panel to honor his friend Marvin Feldman, and since then, the Quilt has grown to more than 50,000 panels, serving as a lasting monument to the lives lost to the AIDS epidemic.
Jean-Michel Basquiat was a genre-defying Black and bisexual painter, activist, and pop culture icon whose fiercely handmade signature style of abstract expressionism balanced a bold sense of color and composition with powerful and deeply personal socio-political commentary that’s still as chilling and eerily current after 30 years.
Beyoncé – Formation
Directed by Melina Matsoukas, Beyoncé‘s Formation was highly conceptual, blending a meticulously curated and visually striking Black and rural southern American aesthetic with implicit commentary on police brutality, Hurricane Katrina, and the Black experience. The music video beautifully centered Black women and Black queer communities in a visual anthem that was a cultural force in pushing public awareness on social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement
Artolution – Syrian Refugee Public Art Initiative
Artolution‘s refugee public art initiative is a sustainable program that directly impacts thousands of children each year by taking a community-centered approach to addressing the trauma and stigma experienced by children in refugee camps while providing an opportunity for Syrian refugees to become agents of social change and promoting long-term healing.
David Maisel – The Mining Project
The Mining Project is a powerful series of photographs that considers the aesthetics and politics of natural resource extraction and its consequences by focusing on sites such as open pit mines, clear-cut forests, rampant urbanization and sprawl, and zones of water reclamation. David Maisel‘s magnificent body of work seems to capture the natural beauty of an otherworldly landscape but quietly illuminates environmentally impacted sites in the United States and their spoiled, desecrated beauty.
Luke Jerram – Invisible Homeless
Described by Luke Jerram as a “genderless figure” with a “vulnerable and fragile form”, Invisible Homeless positioned a life size sleeping glass sculpture on sidewalks to draw the attention of passerbys. The multidisciplinary artist designed the initiative as part of an Arts Council-funded residency at The Glass Hub, in partnership with 1625 Independent People, to call on the community to protect people from the unhoused crisis in England.
Albert Namatjira was a Western Arrernte-speaking Aboriginal artist from the MacDonnell Ranges, west of Alice Springs in Central Australia. His richly detailed watercolor landscapes of Indigenous sacred sites made him a celebrated pioneer of contemporary Aboriginal art in the 1950s and the most famous Indigenous Australian of his generation. A proud Arrernte (Aranda) elder, Namatjira’s fusion of Western-style artistic techniques with Australian subject matter and places where he held ancestral connections were a shift from the Indigenous art that white audiences were familiar with.
Laura Poitras – Astro Noise
Artist, filmmaker, and journalist Laura Poitras designed Astro Noise, her first solo museum exhibition, to be an immersive, interrelated series of installations exploring issues like mass surveillance in the context of the war on terror, the U.S. drone program, Guantánamo Bay Prison, occupation, and torture. The title refers to the faint background disturbance of thermal radiation left over from the Big Bang and is the name Edward Snowden gave to an encrypted file containing evidence of mass surveillance by the National Security Agency that he shared with Poitras in 2013.
Angélica Dass – Humanæ
Angélica Dass’ photographic work in progress, Humanæ, is a stunningly direct reflection on the color of skin that aims to document humanity’s true colors. Portraits include people on the Forbes list, refugees who crossed the Mediterranean Sea by boat, students in Switzerland and the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Currently more than 4000 volunteers have been photographed in 36 cities and in 20 different countries for the Humanae Project, and there is no date set for its completion. It’s a project in constant evolution as Angelica Dass seeks to demonstrate that what defines the human being is its inescapably uniqueness and, therefore, its diversity.
Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly – 9/11 New Yorker Cover
On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we’re honoring the September 24, 2011 The New Yorker Magazine cover for our Anthemic Art series. This drawing from the immediate days following the attacks on September 11 was designed in collaboration by Art Spiegelman and his wife Françoise Mouly, the New Yorker’s art editor. The couple saw the first plane crash into the North Tower and the very next day were faced with the impossible task of coming up with an appropriate cover while processing their grief. Mouly remembers thinking, “I want no image. I can’t do this. No image can do justice to this.” They decided to embrace the negative space, settling on the iconic image of a darkened silhouette of the Twin Towers set on a black background.
Pablo Picasso – Guernica
Possibly one of Pablo Picasso‘s best-known works, Guernica is an 11 feet tall and 25 feet long commissioned painting created in response to the April 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica. Picasso’s depiction of the horrors of war along with the painting’s perceived charge for social action became a demonstration tool around the world and an enduring protest symbol, making it one of the most powerful examples of anti-war art in history.
Shephard Fairey has created some of the most iconic images of the last few decades. From the ‘Obey Giant’ street art campaign of the late 1990s to the ‘Hope’ poster from Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign, Fairey has had his pulse on the style and social sensibility of forward-thinking generations of today. His work is vibrant, arresting, and memorable, the perfect combination for drawing attention to a variety of causes and the inspiring power of art as a whole.
Known as the “Dust Bowl Troubadour,” Woodie Guthrie’s folk songs and country ballads championed the lives of common folk around the country. Guthrie’s iconic ‘This Machine Kills Fascists” sticker on his car made it clear where he stood, and his music is celebrated today not only as an authentic example of homegrown American folk music but an important document of the struggles of America’s working class.
The Third of May, 1808
Francisco Goya’s The Third of May, 1808 is one of those pieces will forever convey the anguish of the exact moment it depicts. Painted in a style far ahead of its time, Goya’s piece depicts the summary execution of a group of Spanish rebels by Napoleon’s troops in the spring of 1808. A man raises his arms in a final act of pride as his comrade lays dying in front of him, a stance of enduring defiance familiar to those who’ve fought against oppression.
The work of American visual artist Kara Walker is truly striking. Some of her best-known works are room-sized installations that place the viewer as a shadow figure alongside grotesque silhouettes of figures from fairy tales and US history to dig deep into themes like slavery, racism, and how effects these ills have on subsequent generations. Known for her prolific output, Walker’s unique, complex vision has provoked discussion, criticism, censure, and widespread acclaim, and has won Walker some of the highest honors in art and culture.