the original snapshot chosen for ‘Monument’


‘Monument’ as presented 1982

Design sketch

‘Monument’ design 1982

The city of the Hague provided its artists with the opportunity to create sponsored works in and on  official premises: Offices, schools, parks, etc. It was a way to acquaint the public with art in unusual forms and places.

 For Martin Helm it was a means to escape the official gallery circuit and present his work directly  to an audience, without  commercial pressures: Art was to be seen for free, the streets would form a giant gallery .

The series of paintings he was working on at that time were based on his photographs, no more than snapshots, taken of people walking the streets in the Hague, casual passers-by. From many dozens of snapshots, one contained the image that was chosen to be airbrushed on giant polyester resin covered plywood panels, and be turned into the ‘Monument for the Casual Passer-by’. The project took about four months from sketch to finished product: An eight meter high airbrush painting, standing in front of the wall of a school building.

The local newspaper covered the presentation of ‘Monument’, and put out an inquiry in its pages to find out who this particular passer-by was. Within a few days a young man presented himself to the journalist and photographer, dressed in the same T-shirt and sunglasses.

The project had come full circle. The passer-by became a real person with all that this new reality implied, and was not an anonymous subject anymore.


Polaroids show work in progress on ‘Monument’, in an evacuated classroom at the highschool which had commissioned the artwork.

Martin Helm (left) climbing a wall while friends help raise the T-shirt

The projects finished. The last bolts are turned. The collaborators in the photo are (left to right) Titus Samson, Rob de Bont, Alfredo Delbosq, Chilly Nobel and Let Bijkersma.


click here to go to Martin Helm Chronology Projects