interfaith mall grove
Interfaith AIDS Memorial Chapel
at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
AIDS Memorial Quilt op de
National Mall in Washington, DC
National AIDS Memorial Grove in
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Forms of commemoration and empowerment

The first forms of commemoration of people with aids arose in de epicentres of the pandemic, New York and San Francisco. On 9 November 1985, the National AIDS Memorial was created in the Episcopalian Church of St. John the Divine in New York, with a Book of Remembrance, in which there are now thousands of beautifully written names. Aids-chapels followed in other churches, the most impressive perhaps being the Interfaith AIDS Memorial Chapel in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, with Keith Haring’s bronze and white gold triptych – his last work before he died from aids-related illnesses in 1990. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was initiated in June 1987, not just as a means of dealing with grief, but primarily to inspire action in the fight against aids; and on 11 October of that year, there were 1,920 panels laid out on the National Mall in Washington DC. In the ensuing five years, AIDS Memorial Quilts were established in more than 40 countries.

beacon road parkeer
Beacon of Hope in Manchester Road tattoo Survivor’s Knot Parkeergarage Chueca al-Dante

The idea of an AIDS Memorial Grove arose in 1988, and three years later, in September 1991, the renovation and re-design of a rugged little valley began in the Golden Gate Park. The planting of trees, bushes and plants as a symbol of life is the idea behind the many aids memorial groves, parks, and gardens, which gradually followed all over the world. This trailer on YouTube gives an impression: The Grove – Trailer. In the summer of every year, a special event takes place “Flagging in the Park” – July 18, 2012 – National AIDS Memorial Grove. New York too has gone for a park-based approach, which has – but only after 14 years – managed to be realized: World AIDS Day – Monument Dedication NYC 2008.
In 1994, the first digital memorial was launched: the Columbia University AIDS Memorial, as part of an exhibition in the university library: Stonewall & Beyond. In 2003, the Alliance for the Arts in New York launched the National Registry of Artists with AIDS, which holds 1,865 names. The first actual sculpture was realised in 2000 – The Beacon of Hope, in Manchester. The most unconventional memorials are perhaps Steed Taylor’s road tattoos Survivor’s Knot (2004), and the Chueca an-Dante parking garage in Madrid (2005).

With and without names

In the early memorials, the recording of names was the central theme, the most impressive being the Toronto AIDS Memorial – with more than 2,700 names, and the Key West AIDS Memorial – with more than 1,000 names (in relation to 30,000 inhabitants). This video shows the Vancouver AIDS Memorial: As Autumn Falls. In the course of time, more and more monuments without names have appeared, such as the AIDS Memorial of Munich. The sober text makes the subject clear: “AIDS – to the dead, to the hiv-positive people, their friends, their families. 1981 to now.” The sculpture in the Gugu Dlamini Park in Durban, South Africa, makes use of the red ribbon as a symbol of solidarity with hiv-positive people.

toronto munchen durban
Toronto AIDS Memorial AIDS Memorial München Gugu Dlamini Park in Durban


In Europe in 1991, Saint Andrew’s Chapel of Southwark Cathedral in London was “dedicated to those who are living or dying in the shadow of hiv and aids”. During Documenta IX in Kassel in 1992, the first public aids memorial was established: the Denkraum Namen und Steine, which was repeated in 22 German cities, Zürich, and Riga. In 1994, unique monuments followed in Frankfurt and Cologne. A large number of memorials were established only in the new millennium, such as in Manchester (2000), Kyiv (2001), Munich (2002), Barcelona (2003), Edinburgh (2004), Moscow (2004), Madrid (2005), Sabadell (2005), Heidelberg (2006), Dublin (2006), Paris (2006), Vienna (2007), Palma de Mallorca (2007), Svetlogorsk (2008), Brighton (2009), Bournemouth (2010), Gijon (2010), Berlin (2010) en Kharkiv (2012). Here is an interview with the artist of the Brighton and Hove AIDS Memorial: Annabel Giles interviews Romany Marc Bruce about the AIDS Memorial.

denkraum brighton bosque
Denkraum Namen und Steine,
Brighton and Hove AIDS
Bosque de la Memoria de
Asturias, Gijon

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the first panels were laid out on Dam Square in Amsterdam on 1 December 1988. Since then, the AIDS Memorial Quilt has been managed by the NAMES Project Netherlands. In 2007, a digital version was added – – where anyone can commemorate a loved one in their own way – with text, photographs, sound, and/or video. In August 2011, the NAMES Project Netherlands launched the web portal, with the objective of listing all the aids memorials in the world, and in so doing, contributing to the preservation of this special legacy.
At the Friends for Life aids benefit concert in the Beurs van Berlage in 1991, Tree of Life, a work by the Mexican artist Ricardo Regazzoni was presented as a gift to the Amsterdam Medical Center, and it now stands in one corner of its central hall.

Tree of Life, centrale hal AMC


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