adam mcewen pens obituaries in memory of greta thunberg and dolly parton at gagosian

adam mcewen pens obituaries in memory of greta thunberg and dolly parton at gagosian

Adam Mcewen writes fake-death obituaries at gagosian


In Adam McEwen’s obituaries, Greta Thunberg has died at the age of 19, Dolly Parton at 77, Grace Jones at 74, and David Hammons at 79, to name a few. Printed on newspapers, the funereal dedication to the living personalities grace London’s Gagosian gallery as a welcome to McEwen’s return and first solo exhibition in over a decade.


The heartfelt messages of the British artist upon the revered living profiles’ fake deaths perpetuate their boundary-breaking legacies and societal-shifting philanthropy in five columns, all typed in a biographical style.

adam mcewen obituaries
images courtesy of Gagosian | photo by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd | header photo by Lucy Dawkins



A two-fold consequence occurs in McEwen’s works. First, he excels at becoming an omnipresent narrator of the people he picked, a comical wallflower who transitions into an unseen-but-felt protagonist. Then, the obituaries polarize viewers to halt and read the ploy to appreciate, or nod in agreement as they read, the specified and highlighted accounts that McEwen hopes incite tangled emotions rooted in a love-and-hate paradox.


McEwen’s obituaries pivot date back to 2000, before the advent of social-media memes, and theatrically trespass the comical truth and fiction in lengthy dedications. His obituaries stem from his previous experience writing them part-time while pursuing art in London in his earlier days. The selected people he spotlights reflect the roles they have played in redefining contemporary understandings of the environment, technology, spirituality, culture, and identity.

adam mcewen obituaries
Grace Jones’ obituary | photo by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd



Emerging before the meme era


Albeit the scrunched eyebrows upon reading the obituaries, Adam McEwen bares truth in the way he pens his detailed expository text. His works emulate the look and written style of a printed newspaper of record, complete with a photograph of the subject.


The tone the British artist adopts in jotting down achievements about his selected subjects and their revolutionary attempts to change how the world works results in prose-like feature stories that help viewers humanely connect, or reconnect, with the living personalities. The British artist prompts the viewers to consider their subjects afresh, to contemplate the hypothetical loss of these individuals, and to envision a world in which they are absent.

adam mcewen obituaries
Greta Thunberg obituary | photo by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd



The conceptual portraits attempt to underpin the social role that newspapers retain as gatekeepers for the truth as opposed to digitizing texts while tipping the balance of the viewers’ empathy to the people highlighted by advancing their deaths, which might sometimes occur as a hoax or an error. McEwen’s works propose that the act of living itself is a creative endeavor until it ends, much like making artwork. 


The obituary works are accompanied by Rain Puddle (2023), an aluminum sculpture of eight rods extending up from the puddle’s surface and surrounded by frozen ripples. Adam McEwen’s exhibition at Gagosian London, which is on view until March 11th, 2023, overlaps with his show Adam McEwen: XXIII, an exhibition of new paintings that will open at Gagosian Rome on February 10th, 2023.

adam mcewen obituaries
Adam McEwen | photo by Andisheh Avini

adam mcewen obituaries
exbition view | photo by Lucy Dawkins

adam mcewen obituaries
exhibition view | photo by Lucy Dawkins


Adam McEwen at Gagosian London | photo by Lucy Dawkins

adam mcewen obituaries
Adam McEwen: XXIII in Gagosian Rome | image courtesy of Adam McEwen and Gagosian | photo by Rob McKeever

adam mcewen obituaries
Adam McEwen: XXIII in Gagosian Rome | image courtesy of Adam McEwen and Gagosian | photo by Rob McKeever



project info:


name: Adam McEwen’s Obituaries

artist: Adam McEwen

gallery: Gagosian London

location: Davies Street, London





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