Born in Poland, a Swedish-American citizen, living and working in London; Aleksandra Mir is the very definition of an international contemporary artist. Her work has been shown at Tate Modern, London; at the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt; at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; and at the Mercosul Biennial in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
From 7 January Mir presents the Pre-Presidential Library, a free exhibition in Hayward Gallery’s HENI Project Space in which the artist displays, for the first time, a selection of New York City tabloid covers – dating from 1986-2000 – compiled during research into the news media archives of the New York Public Library.
Each of the 32 front pages, which have been photocopied from microfiche and enlarged to almost two metres high, feature headlines relating to the business dealings, political aspirations or personal life of the current US President, Donald Trump.
The selection of covers that make up this exhibition are drawn from a much larger collection compiled by the artist in 2007 when she reviewed 10,000 covers – the combined output of New York City’s two leading tabloids up to the millennium – leading to her acclaimed 2007 exhibition, Newsroom, at New York’s Mary Boone Gallery.
Covering a period before the predominance of 24-hour television news; the Pre-Presidential Library allows us to reflect on the historical significance of the tabloid print media and its distribution in the public space, as well as what makes the news and why.
As, Mir discovered during her research; in the 15-year period leading up to the millennium news relating to Donald Trump made the front covers on 87 occasions; in contrast, the AIDS crisis, which during the same period claimed the lives of over 75,000 New Yorkers, featured just 13 times.
In contrast to Presidential libraries, the often monumental buildings which serve as the official repositories of a President and their administration, Mir’s Pre-Presidential Library is an open source project that – as the artist puts it – ‘anyone, anywhere’ can research, host or develop.