“Statue of Liberty” a work by Elmgreen & Dragset is now on permanent display in the courtyard of Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin. This work is a threefold work: a memorial to German separation, a monument recalling the lost time of infinite possibility directly after the fall of the Wall, and a warning about the selling off of history and the city.
Manhattan’s Statue of Liberty once welcomed migrants arriving on ships to the New World and quickly became an emblem of New York. The eponymous installation by the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset references its status as a popular tourist attraction. Their “Statue of Liberty” (2018), however, consists of a concrete segment of the Berlin Wall and an ATM.
The sculpture initially results in a sharp, absurd image: a cash-dispensing device has been inserted into an opening of the Iron Curtain that once separated East and West Berlin. The paradoxical fusion of two objects representing two systems – capitalist West and communist East – raises questions about the current state of the city of Berlin and its development since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Wall formerly symbolized the Cold War and restrictions on individual freedom, while the parts of it still standing today often serve simply as backdrops for holiday snapshots. During the post-reunification period, Berlin was regarded as an immature city full of free spaces; this perception of freedom is however becoming ever rarer due to gentrification.