Raél Jero Salley is both an artist and an educator. He heads the department of art history, theory and criticism at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore; before this, the painter-professor had a stint lecturing at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art. As a teacher, Salley says he tries “to make juxtapositions between things that seem like they don’t go together”, reaching for those “Aha!” moments when “students begin to see the links between one thing and another”.

The example he gives is the unusual pairing of the pyramids at Giza and the World Trade Center (WTC) in Chicago. I’d love to be a student in Salley’s class comparing these phenomena. If the pyramids in Egypt represent intransience, or at least the survival of iconic structures through the ages, the short history of Chicago’s WTC project seems to stand for appropriation, unfulfilled visions of grandeur and architectural ambition turning to dust. In the 1980s there was a dream of ...

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