Richard Serra's sculpture Gravity is wedged into the staircase in the southwest corner of the Hall of Witness. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Joel Shapiro's Loss and Regeneration consists of an abstract tree-like form and a house-like structure tipped on its roof. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Museum’s four site-specific works of art were commissioned and chosen by an independent jury, and Museum architect James Ingo Freed collaborated with each of the artists to ensure a harmonious relationship between their work and its context. Just as the architecture of the building draws much of its power from the history of the Holocaust, so the four works of art, displayed in and outside the building, evoke emotion and reinforce the Museum’s memorial function.
A 12-foot-square slab of steel weighing nearly 30 tons, Richard Serra’s monolithic sculpture Gravity is wedged near the black granite wall at the bottom of the stairs to the Concourse in the southwest corner of the Hall of Witness. The sculpture impales the staircase, destabilizing the space and forcing a rift in the flow of visitors as they descend—a forced separation.
LOSS AND REGENERATION
Joel Shapiro’s Loss and Regeneration addresses the disintegration of families and the tragedy of lives interrupted by the Holocaust. Situated on the plaza along Raoul Wallenberg Place, the work consists of two bronze elements that engage in symbolic dialogue. The larger piece is a towering, abstract, tree-like form that suggests a figure. Approximately 100 feet away, a smaller, house-like structure is precariously tipped upside down on its roof.
The work memorializes the children who perished during the Holocaust and is accompanied by an excerpt of a poem written by a child in the Terezin ghetto in Czechoslovakia:
Until, after a long, long time,
I’d be well again.
Then I’d like to live
And go back home again.
Shapiro likens the overturned house to the subversion of the universal symbol of security, comfort, and continuity. The larger figure is conceived as an emblem of renewal—of the possibility of a future even after all has been lost.