Related themes

The Body in Art

Discover how artists represent and use the body to investigate their relationships to gender and identity.

What Will Become of Me

Adrian Piper
(American, born 1948)

1985. Framed text, glass jars, shelf, hair, fingernails, and skin, Dimensions variable

What Will Become of Me? is a work in progress that will be completed upon the artist’s death. Since 1985, Piper has filled honey jars with her hair and fingernails whenever she cuts them. The last container to be added will hold her cremated remains. The jars are displayed on a shelf flanked by two documents: One is a personal account of the artist’s experiences in 1985 when she started the project, and the other is a notarized statement in which Piper declares her intention to donate this work to The Museum of Modern Art. As both an African American and a woman—two groups that have traditionally been marginalized in the history of art—she is literally inserting herself into the Museum’s collection.

Body parts or personal belongings of saints and other important figures that are preserved for purposes of commemoration or veneration.

Relics of the Past
The preservation of the artist’s body evokes the practice of keeping relics. Many religions throughout history have saved relics—often body parts and personal belongings—of saints and other important figures to commemorate or venerate the person.

Wearing Many Hats
Aside from her role as an artist, Piper is also a philosopher. She received a Ph.D. from Harvard University and in 1987 became the first tenured African American woman professor in the field of philosophy.