AIDSmonument 'Living by Numbers' Created by Jean-Michel Othoniel, Unveiled Today by Mayor of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan

Thursday, December 1, 2016 AIDS/HIV News
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AMSTERDAM, December 1, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --

AIDSmonument in Amsterdam Counts Down Till the end of AIDS  


RELX Group on behalf of the NAMES Project Netherlands

From December 1st 2016, World Aids Day, onwards the Netherlands have their own HIV/AIDSmonument, officially unveiled by the mayor of Amsterdam,

Eberhard van der Laan, together with the artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and Louise van Deth, managing director of AIDS Fonds (AIDS Foundation) the Netherlands.

It is located on the south bank of the river IJ on a permanent location between Central Station and the concert hall Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ. The monument "Living by Numbers" was created by the French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel.

The striking features of the landmark are the great scarlet beads made of hand-blown glass; the monument has the shape of a giant abacus, which counts down till the end of AIDS.

Development of the monument is an initiative of the NAMES Project Netherlands Foundation, and could be realized thanks to the support of main sponsors: Aids Fonds (Aids Foundation), OLVG hospital of Amsterdam, RELX Group and ViiV Healthcare.

Other contributing sponsors include among others, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, The Art of Impact, Zabawas, and the Centrum district of Amsterdam; funding was also raised through a crowdfunding campaign.

Significance of the AIDSmonument 

The monument is a beacon of hope and support to anyone living with HIV. At the same time it is a tribute to all buddies, supporters, medical employees, activists and scientists. Moreover it is also a memorial, dedicated to all loved ones who have died of AIDS.

The initiators of developing the monument chose Amsterdam because this city has been and is a sanctuary for many people with HIV who were not welcome in their own countries.

"Othoniel demonstrates with his design that an AIDSmonument does not necessarily have to be somber. He combines very delicately a heavy subject with elegance and beauty. The wonderful light at the bank of the river IJ will be freely reflected in the shining beads, made of hand-blown glass. The monument will match its surroundings perfectly. The AIDSmonument will enrich Amsterdam with a significant work of art," the appointed art committee had said upon selecting the design of the monument.

See for more information: - and further details provided in appendix below. Twitter hashtags: #Aidsmonument #WorldAIDSDay


What is the significance of the HIV/AIDSmonument? 

The aim of this monument is to keep the attention for AIDS and HIV alive and kicking. At this moment there are approximately 22,100 people in the Netherlands with AIDS and HIV. Every week there are still 19 people in this country who are getting the diagnosis that they have HIV. Moreover a quarter of people with HIV don't even know that he or she is carrying the HIV virus. Therefore HIV and AIDS deserve all our attention, and was the AIDSmonument unveiled December 1st 2016 - Worlds Aids Day - in the footsteps of other cities such as New York, San Francisco and  Vancouver.

Why this design? 

The AIDSmonument was designed in the form of an abacus; an instrument to teach people to count. The abacus is significant, because it symbolizes the countdown to the moment that AIDS will have disappeared from this world for good. The beads in the abacus are made of hand blown glass and therefore all slightly different. They catch the light of the river IJ, reflecting the light in bright colors. It puts a spell on the eyes of anyone passing by. Every year the number of beads will be adjusted and this will be clarified during an event. The beads will, for example, show how many people have been cured of HIV. In that way the AIDSmonument will reflect not only loss, but will also emphasize that there is hope for the future.

The monument is an initiative of the foundation NAMENproject Nederland, an organization that works with volunteers who want to keep the attention for HIV and AIDS alive and kicking. In search of a suitable design the foundation was advised by an independent commission of arts. Moreover there was a web-election among the public. This resulted in a longlist of forty artists. Eventually the foundation chose a work of art by the internationally well-known French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel.

Why this site? 

The river IJ seems a perfect site for the AIDSmonument due to its history. This river symbolizes trade overseas. Sailors did not only exchange goods; they also exchanged diseases. Such as syphilis in the fifteenth century and plague in the seventeenth century. In that way the river IJ reflects almost tangibly the international dimension of AIDS.

But there is more: only a few decades ago the De Ruyterkade was the place for hookers and junkies, with just around the corner social workers and the bus that was providing methadone. For gay men the eastern side of the quay was a popular car-cruising-area and Café West-Indië - no longer existing - at De Ruyterkade 110 was the meeting point of Motor Sportclub Amsterdam, a motorclub for gay people.

Nowadays the 'back of Amsterdam' shows the dynamics of the capital of the Netherlands. The site, where the AIDSmonument is located, is now a beautiful spot at the river IJ, among exceptional architecture and international splendor. Nowadays the south bank of the river IJ offers a 'coming and going' of many people due to the Central Station, the river-ferries, rivercruise-ships and the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam (PTA), which is the harbor for international cruise-ships. Every year hundreds of thousands residents and visitors will see the AIDSmonument: from the street, from passing busses, trams and trains, from bigger and smaller ships and boats. The AIDSmonument will also be seen by pedestrians and by people driving their cars and riding their bikes. Amongst them there will be many, many tourists.

The AIDSmonument will not only be a place for official ceremonies, but also for intimate memorials by individuals. Therefore Othoniel has designed a bench right underneath the abacus with a beautiful view of the river. Underneath the huge abacus people will be able to daydream and reflect, while they look at the horizon, pondering on the future. In this way the AIDSmonument is to give people the courage to go on.

How is the artist involved? 

Jean-Michel Othoniel (Saint-Étienne, 1964) was eighteen, when a mysterious disease got a name: AIDS. Since the eighties AIDS plays an important part in Othoniel's work. The absence of bodies is a significant recurrent theme.

For this Living by Numbers Othoniel was inspired by figures: the number of people with HIV and AIDS. Counting is a recurrent theme in this design: the number of victims, the number of people who live with HIV, the number of CD4-cells. All this led to the idea of the abacus; a calculation tool from the past. The hand blown beads symbolize hope, especially our hope that one day people will be able to stop counting. Colored balls have been the principal material that Jean-Michel Othoniel has been using in his work since the late 1990's. Therefore his work looks like monumental jewels. Othoniel says: "Beauty in art seems kind of taboo in the Western world, whereas beauty, compassion and hope are absolutely necessary in our world."

Wide support in fundraising 

The foundation NAMENproject Nederland could only realize the HIV/AIDSmonument thanks to many companies and organisations that supported this monument ever since 2014. The main sponsors are the Aids Fonds (Aids Foundation), the Amsterdam hospital OLVG, RELX Group (formerly Reed Elsevier) and ViiV Healthcare. Founding sponsors are DoubleTree by Hilton and Gilead. Many individuals donated money due to crowdfundation through And there was support by major (art)foundations: the Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst (Amsterdam Foundation for the Arts), Art of Impact and Zabawas. Other sponsors are the hospital Academisch Medisch Centrum (AMC), het Amsterdamsche Fonds, Amsterdam Lowlanders Rugby Club, Michael Bakish & Peter M. Hirsch, Canal Company, COC Nederland, Cordaan, dance4life, Drugspastoraat Amsterdam, Eelco & Frank, Elsevier Women's Network & Elsevier Pride, Les Enfants Terribles, Firma Netjes, Stichting GALA, Gebr. Silvestri, GGD Amsterdam, hello gorgeous, Stichting HIV Monitoring, Hiv Vereniging Nederland, i.m. Kees Rümke, Stichting Homomonument, IHLIA LGBT Heritage, Joep Lange Institute, Lloyd Hotel & Culturele Ambassade, Mr. B, De Nederlandsche Bank, Nederlandse Vereniging van Hemofilie Patiënten (NVHP), Nederlandse Vereniging van HIV Behandelaren (NVHB), Nieuwezijds Gay Sauna, Pascal van den Noort, Mark Noyons & Partners, PlanetRomeo Foundation, De Regenboog Groep, RutgersWPF, Sanquin Bloedvoorziening, Thalys, Thermos Sauna, Tijgertje, TrutFonds, VU Medisch Centrum and Zorggroep Amsterdam Oost (Flevohuis | De Open Hof). Other supporters were the Municipality of Amsterdam and the central district of Amsterdam.

International battle against aids 

The Netherlands have always been a runner-up in the international battle against AIDS. Scientists and experts from our country have been important in the development of the combination therapy. Due to this therapy of HIV-inhibitors dying of AIDS became living with HIV. This meant a huge breakthrough, but meanwhile the danger remains that HIV has become invisible. People tend to forget that even this year and even in The Netherlands there are still people dying of AIDS.

Amsterdam, December 2016

See for more information:

Twitter hashtags: #Aidsmonument #WorldAIDSDay

Media contact  

Jörn Wolters Foundation NAMES Project Netherlands NAMES Project Netherlands Foundation 

SOURCE Elsevier

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