Paul Ramírez Jonas (New York)

In conversation with Paul Ramírez Jonas

Sunday 29 May 2022, 4.00pm5.00pm

1 Oozells Square
Birmingham, B1 2HS United Kingdom
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60 mins
A group of people on a promotional stand at Birmingham New Street Train Station, interacting with each other

Key to the City - Key Exchange Ceremony Site at Birmingham New Street Station

Female-presenting person stood infant of a brick wall.

Image: Mariam Zulfiqar. Photograph: Jasprit Singh

Join New York City-based artist Paul Ramírez Jonas and Artangel’s Director Mariam Zulfiqar as they consider the role art plays in public contexts. They will discuss the European premiere of Paul’s project Key to the City in Birmingham, the (de)politicisation of public art and how it can galvanise communities.

The talk will take place on Sunday 29 May at Ikon Gallery, 4-5pm.

Entry is FREE, but booking is necessary.

To reserve your place please email:


Paul Ramirez Jonas – Biography

Paul Ramírez Jonas was born in 1965 in Pomona, California, and raised in Honduras. He earned a BA in studio art from Brown University (1987) and an MFA in painting from Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (1989).

Ramírez Jonas’s work ranges from large-scale public installation and monumental sculpture to intimate performance, video, and drawing, and traces the universal aspiration to an elusive perfect world. From driving west in pursuit of the sunset (Longer Day, 1997), to recreating failed flying machines (various projects, 1993–94) and transcribing the communications of the Apollo space mission (Men on the Moon, Tranquility, 1990– ), his practice is characterised by a bracing, albeit nostalgic, idealism rooted in a faith in human resilience. Sensitive to the processes of globalisation, he reveals its simultaneous tendencies towards interdependence and exclusion.

Exploring the parallels between various public gathering spaces, Ramírez Jonas’s drawing series Admit One (2010–13) and Assembly (2013) chart a typology of assembly halls, churches, cinemas, stadiums, and theaters that underscore the fundamental nature of the human need for connection. In The Commons (2011) and Ventriloquist (2013), the artist revived the monument (here the equestrian statue and the portrait bust, respectively) as a vehicle for communication by replacing the form’s immutable granite or marble with cork—a material that is both degradable and the traditional medium of community noticeboards.

Key to the City (2010) was a citywide intervention in which twenty-five thousand keys to private or normally inaccessible spaces throughout New York City were bestowed on certain individuals in a special ceremony, revealing that culture can still be a freely shared experience, while also highlighting the increasing privatization of urban space.

Ramírez Jonas has had solo exhibitions at Artists Space, New York (1990); White Columns, New York (1992); Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas (2007); Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2008); and the Pinacoteca do Estado, São Paulo (2011). Selected group exhibitions include Fluxus Attitudes, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1992); inSite_05, San Diego and Tijuana (2005); The Quick and the Dead, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2009); Barely There (Part II), Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (2011); Caribbean: Crossroads of the World, El Museo del Barrio, New York (2012); and Shine a Light 2013, Portland Art Museum (2013). He has also taken part in the Johannesburg Biennial (1995); Seoul Biennial (2000); Shanghai Biennial (2006); São Paulo Biennial (2008); and Venice Biennale (2009). His honors include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1991), Art Matters Foundation (2009), and Joan Mitchell Foundation (2009), as well as a Howard Foundation Fellowship (2009).

He is Professor and Chair of the Department of Art at Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP).

Ramírez Jonas lives and works in New York.


Mariam Zulfiqar – Biography

Mariam Zulfiqar is the Director of Artangel. Prior to joining the team in January 2022, Mariam led the National Art Programme at Forestry England where she implemented a new strategic direction, developing partnership projects at the intersection of art, design, architecture, environment, and ecology.

As Deputy Director and Chief Curator at UP Projects, Mariam curated new commissions and oversaw Constellations – an artist development programme for artists working in the public domain, and This is Public Space – a programme of digital commissions that explore the internet as a site for art.

Mariam’s primary area of focus is art in the public domain and as an independent curator, she has commissioned projects for Film and Video Umbrella and Art on the Underground. In 2021, Mariam curated Bring into Being – the inaugural programme of events, activities and contemporary art at Chiswick House. The programme marked a new chapter by inviting contemporary voices in the arts and sciences to respond to the historic 18th Century site.

Mariam regularly consults for various international public art programmes and has guest lectured at academic institutions in the UK and internationally. In 2013 she was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Fund. Mariam holds a BA in Design and Public Art from Chelsea College of Art and an MA in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art.


Sunday 29 May 2022