Artist: Sam Durant
Date of Action: August 2021
Region: North America
Location: Walker Art Center
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Confronting Bodies: Dakota Elders, Walker Art Center
Description of Artwork: Scaffold, a massive 2012 work by Los Angeles artist Sam Durant intended to create awareness about capital punishment and its historically disproportionate effect on people of color. Scaffold is based on designs for gallows used in seven U.S. state-sanctioned executions, including 38 Dakota men hung in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862.
The Incident: In late May, Minneapolis' Walker Art Center became the center of a heated controversy over Scaffold. Protesters began gathering outside the museum on May 26th, 2017 and remained all weekend. The installation was not discussed in advance with the local Dakota community, and it sparked a protest and demands for it to be destroyed. Much of the native community was extremely offended and upset by the artwork and were very vocal about it. One protester said that "it truly saddens me that in 2017, we still live in a world where the intergenerational trauma of a people can be put on display for the world to see without any consequences." Many offended viewers of the art commented that the "legacy of the white, male monopoly over the historiography of the Dakota War lives on."
Results of Incident: After a meeting with Dakota tribal elders, a determination was made to dismantle the sculpture and burn the wood in a ceremony; Durant pledged to transfer his intellectual property rights to the work to the Dakota tribe. The Dakota Nation then suspended the ceremonial burning until further notice. They eventually chose instead to bury the material.
June 26, 2017 Dakota elders meet to discuss sculpture’s fate http://www.therepublic.com/2017/06/26/mn-gallows-sculpture-protests-2/
June 25, 2017 Dakota elders meet to ponder fate of 'Scaffold' materials It was dismantled and removed from Sculpture Garden. By Alicia Eler Star Tribune http://www.startribune.com/dakota-elders-meet-to-ponder-fate-of-scaffold-materials/430753943/
JUNE 23, 2017 NCAC Responds to the Walker Art Center’s Statement Affirming Decision to Dismantle Controversial Sculpture BY NCAC http://ncac.org/blog/ncac-responds-to-the-walker-art-centers-statement-affirming-decision-to-dismantle-controversial-sculpture
June 20, 2017 Walker Statement in Response to NCAC Statement https://walkerart.org/magazine/walker-art-center-response-national-coalition-against-censorship-scaffold