Jens Galschiøt revokes copyright on “Pillar of Shame” sculpture after a storm of inquiries


“Pillar of Shame” as it stood at Hong Kong University

The Danish artist Jens Galschiøt has received over 40 inquiries from artists and protesters who want to place a copy of his famous sculpture “Pillar of Shame” to put focus on the democracy movement in Hong Kong and he has therefore revoked his copyright protection on the iconic piece. 

To DR News, Jens Galschiøt says that he has had so many inquiries that he finally had to make a signed declaration in which he relinquished the right to the production of the sculpture and in which it is stated that any profits should be given to the democracy movement.

“Normally, artists will not give their art commercially free, but I have done so because the art must come out. And the sculpture is a reminder of the massacre in Tiananmen Square, the democracy movement, and human rights,” Jens Galschiøt adds.

The sculpture “Pillar of Shame” shows a series of twisted bodies stacked on top of each other in memory of the victims during the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Several proponents of increased democracy in China were killed during the bloody demonstrations, and the subject is highly inflamed in China. 

The sculpture was given on permanent loan in 1997 to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China which is a pro-democracy organization established during the Tiananmen Square protests and it has stood at Hong Kong University for 24 years until it was removed at Christmas time.  

Precisely for this reason, it also generated global attention and Jens Galschiøt says to DR that artists are carried by the attention their artworks receive. The “Pillar of Shame” is perhaps the most talked-about sculpture globally these days and that adds value to the sculpture, to the massacre, and to himself.

“I could probably spin a fair deal of gold on this if I wanted to. But I’m not particularly interested in money,” Jens Galschiøt says.

He admits that he has taken a risk by revoking his copyright protection on the sculpture and big corporations or private companies could potentially  abuse that. 

“Yes. I’ve laid down with the devil, but that’s how it is when you are suddenly involved in big politics. It can not be avoided and that’s fine. I exploit them and they exploit me. It’s a mutual “spanking”. But I actually do not feel this sculpture can be abused, because it is a symbol of keeping the memory of the massacre and Hong Kong alive,” Jens Galschiøt says and adds:

“The worst thing that could happen was if nothing happened and that no one cares about the “Pillar of Shame”.

Currently, the sculpture is still in Hong Kong, and Jens Galschøit has a hope that he can get it back soon.

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Gregers Møller