Anya Gallaccio wins commission to create Aids memorial near Diana ward

British artist Anya Gallaccio has won the commission to create an Aids memorial near an HIV ward that was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales in 1987.

The piece of art will be located on South Crescent, Store Street, in Fitzrovia, close to the former Middlesex Hospital where Broderip Ward became the first dedicated to the care and treatment of people affected by HIV/Aids in the United Kingdom.

It was at this hospital that Diana famously shook hands with a man living with Aids, challenging the idea that the virus could be passed on by someone’s touch.

The Princess of Wales is presented with a bouquet by Aids patient Martin Johnson
The Princess of Wales is presented with a bouquet by Aids patient Martin Johnson during her visit to the Mildmay Mission Hospital Aids Hospice in east London (PA)

Gallaccio’s proposal, which was selected by a panel of judges from a shortlist of five artists, features a tree trunk which has a hollowed-out space.

She said: “The proposal as it stands is holding space with the intention of providing a meeting place, a heart for community-generated events and oral histories…

“The tree is a symbol of life. The planes that line the street side of the crescent are everywhere in the city, for good reason, they withstand pollution.

“They are survivors, living, despite their environment, a clunky but perhaps fitting metaphor for those living with HIV and Aids. Hidden in plain sight.”

Anya's design
Design concept for Anya Gallaccio’s winning proposal (Anya Gallaccio/Rinehart Herbst/PA)

The memorial is being delivered by the charity Aids Memory UK, which aims to raise awareness of the continuing impact of HIV and Aids.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has committed £130,000 funding from the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm towards the memorial.

Ash Kotak, founder of Aids Memory UK, said: “The announcement is a major milestone for the already seven-and-a-half-year-long campaign to deliver The Aids Memorial in London.

“The foundations have now been laid: a historically relevant site; a brilliant internationally recognised artist who was directly affected by HIV &
Aids in London; and her beautiful and meaningful new public artwork.

“Now is the time for Londoners, and friends of this great city, to come together to fundraise and build this important new public artwork. It will survive longer than all of us and remain a tribute to the epoch we are all living through, a time of HIV & Aids, as we fight on to its end.”

Mr Khan said: “I’m delighted that Anya Gallaccio has been commissioned to create The Aids Memorial in London, and I’m proud that funding from City Hall is
helping to bring this project to fruition.

“Anya’s proposal is a powerful symbol of solidarity and a fitting way to honour those who have lost their lives to the virus and highlight the impact it
has had on our communities, as we work to end transmissions in the capital and build a fairer London for everyone.”

In 2003, Gallaccio was shortlisted for the Turner Prize and she has recently been awarded the Kenneth Armitage Foundation fellowship 2023-2025.

The Aids Memorial in London is expected to be unveiled at the end of 2027.