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Public Art Exhibition Decatur Georgia Atlanta Georgia


The term public art properly refers to works of art in any media that has been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the public domain, usually outside and accessible to all. The term is especially significant within the art world, amongst curators, commissioning bodies and practitioners of public art, to whom it signifies a particular working practice, often with implications of site specificity, community involvement and collaboration. The term is sometimes also applied to include any art which is exhibited in a public space including publicly accessible buildings.

The scope of public art

Monuments, memorials and civic statuary are perhaps the oldest and most obvious form of officially sanctioned public art, although it could be said that architectural detail and even architecture itself is more widespread and fulfills the definition of public art. Increasingly most aspects of the built environment are seen as legitimate candidates for consideration as, or location for, public art, including, street furniture, lighting and graffiti. Public art is not confined to physical objects; dance, procession, street theatre even poetry have proponents that specialize in public art.

Sculpture intended as public art is often constructed of durable, easily cared-for material, to avoid the worst effects of the elements and vandalism; however, many works are intended to have only a temporary existence and are made of more ephemeral materials. Permanent works are sometimes integrated with architecture and landscaping in the creation or renovation of buildings and sites, an especially important example being the programme developed in the new city of Milton Keynes, England.

Some artists working in this discipline use the freedom afforded by an outdoor site to create very large works that would be unfeasible in a gallery, for instance Richard Long's 3 week walk, entitled "The Path Is the Place in the Line". Amongst the works of the last 30 years that have met greatest critical and popular acclaim are pieces by Robert Smithson, Christo, NONDA and Anthony Gormley where the artwork reacts to or incorporates its environment. In 1960, the Greek artist NONDA, resurrected a 200 year old tradition of exhibiting on the Pont Neuf Bridge in Paris, a tradition made famous by French painters Boucher and Chardin at the Place Dauphine nearby. NONDA Created vast and interactive exhibits under the bridge dedicated to the Poet Francois Villon. In 1963 he built the "Trojan Horse" under the bridge which he lived inside for two months.

Artists making Public art range from the greatest masters such as Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Mir??, to those who specialize in public art such as Claes Oldenburg and Pierre Granche, to anonymous artists who make surreptitious interventions.

Interactive public art
Public fountain sculpture that is also a musical instrument (hydraulophone), which any member of the public can play at any time of the day or night.

Public fountain sculpture that is also a musical instrument (hydraulophone), which any member of the public can play at any time of the day or night.

Some forms of public art are designed to encourage audience participation in a hands-on way. Examples include public art installed at hands-on science museums such as the main architectural centerpiece out in front of the Ontario Science Centre. This permanently installed artwork is a fountain that is also a musical instrument (hydraulophone) that members of the public can play at any time of the day or night. Members of the public interact with the work by blocking water jets to force water through various sound-producing mechanisms inside the sculpture.

Percent for art

Public art is usually installed with the authorization and collaboration of the government or company that owns or administers the space. Some governments actively encourage the creation of public art, for example, budgeting for artworks in new buildings by implementing a Percent for Art policy. 1% of the construction cost for art is a standard, but the amount varies widely from place to place. Administration and maintenance costs are sometimes withdrawn before the money is distributed for art (City of Los Angeles for example). Many locales have "general funds" that fund temporary programs and performances of a cultural nature rather than insisting on project-related commissions.

The majority of European countries, Australia and many cities and states in the USA, have percent for art programs. This requirement is implemented in a variety of ways. The government of Quebec requires that the budget for all new publicly funded buildings set aside 1% for artwork. New York City has a law that requires that no less than 1% of the first twenty million dollars, plus no less than one half of 1% of the amount exceeding twenty million dollars be allocated for art work in any public building that is owned by the city. The maximum allocation for any commission in New York is $400,000. In contrast, the city of Toronto requires that 1% all of construction costs be set aside for public art, with no set upper limit (although in some circumstances, the municipality and the developer might negotiate a maximum amount). In Britain percent for art is discretionary for local authorities, who implement it under the broader terms of a section 106 agreement otherwise known as 'planning gain', in practice it is negotiable, and seldom ever reaches a full 1%, where it is implemented at all. A percent for art scheme exists in Ireland and is widely implemented by many local authorities.

Public art has often been used for political ends. Perhaps finding its greatest expression in the widespread use of public art by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War, that led directly to the policy developed by Lenin to install public art of heroes and artists in every village in the Soviet Union. However, Lenin himself should not be blamed for this since he insisted that art in a revolutionary society should be temporary and should avoid the creation of hero cults. The emergence of monumental sculpture in the Soviet Union should be more properly associated with 'Stalinization.'

Emerging artists and professionals alike still use public art to promote their ideas or to establish censorship-free contact between viewer and artist. Some public art is intended to be ephemeral, going so far as to include temporary installations and performance pieces. In some cases the line between graffiti and "guerrilla" public art is blurred, for example in the case of John Fekner on billboards, the early works of Keith Haring, executed without permission in advertising poster holders in the New York City Subway, and the current work of Banksy. In many cases such public art is spontaneously created in the urban environment, often without the consent of authorities or in the case of political struggle, against the laws.

Public art is an effective tool of social emancipation or achieving a political goal. There are many examples of spontaneous public art getting official recognition: worth mentioning are, for example, world famous Belfast, and Los Angeles murals which, in time of conflict, have been the only existing communication for a members of socially, ethnically and racially divided community's and proved to be an effective tool in establishing a dialogue and hence solving the cleavage in the long run. State sponsored public art, particularly murals, are often used by totalitarian regimes as a tool of mass-control and propaganda.

Damien Hirst's controversial Virgin Mother, in the plaza of Lever House, New York City.
Damien Hirst's controversial Virgin Mother, in the plaza of Lever House, New York City.

In some cases the funding or siting of public art can prove controversial leading to heated debates about who has control of the public realm. Richard Serra's Tilted Arc was removed from a New York City plaza in 1989 after a concerted campaign by office workers who found their routine was disrupted by the work, leading to a public court hearing that found against the work. This particular case also provides a good example of how public opinion can be managed by people with the power to shape and distort perception. It is not commonly recognized that the office workers were not against the sculpture until a small handful of conservative officials created the occasion for the expression of disapproval. The same officials, led by William Diamond, created a "kangaroo court" where the salvaging of the piece was practically impossible. Whereas the integrity of Serra's minimalist work is recognized worldwide, the case of 'Tilted Arc' should be a reminder of how public opinion management often has little to do with intellectual rigor and more to do with the power to manipulate the general lack of cultural education of non-artworld audiences. The case against 'Tilted Arc' was exacerbated by the news media who found it to be more expedient to play up to antiart populism than to provide fair coverage.

Another example of this is the case against Museum Director Dennis Barrie and the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center in their showing of the Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective, "The Perfect Moment". In order to defend Mapplethorpe's work before a jury that was largely ignorant of developments in modern and contemporary art, the defendants "manipulated" jurors by appealing to their ignorance, relying on formalist ideology and clich??s of the alienated artist, rather that on contemporary poststructuralism and theories of cultural difference. In this second case, artworld defenders find themselves turning into crisis management experts rather than giving their publics the benefit of cultural knowledge.

Both cases highlight the fact that the artworld is hardly homogeneous and is itself constituted by people with different ideas and investments. Competing parties often appeal to liberal power and a corresponding notion of "the public" as a way to gain legitimacy and authority. Artists, curators, educators and administrators have now started to be more sensitive to the specific needs and interests of audiences. The idea of a homogenous public is replaced by different and sometimes competing publics. Whereas the influence of identity politics in the 1980s has allowed new social movements (social groups that are based on differences of gender, class, race, sexuality, age, and ability, as well as peace, health, environmental and consumer movements and other public interest groups) to effectively criticize the idea of a coherent public, the space of the "universal" remains as necessary concept in social theory. The concept of "the public" has since shifted to that of the "community". Recent developments in public art now demonstrate an appeal to a friendlier notion of the public in the form of community arts. This interactive approach, however, often risks reducing political complexity in favor of a more innocent idea of the identity of a community. The new role of the artist-as-ethnographer or artist-as-social-worker allows artists to focus on social issues, but it also allows artists and public art agencies to treat communities in essentializing terms.

Developments in community art have curbed avant-garde tendencies among artists in favor of an aesthetic conformism that responds to the management of publics required by public arts administrators and granting agencies. Current forms of community art that seek community involvement, and sometimes the community creation of artworks, allow for greater involvement on the part of nonart constituencies, but also have the unintentional effect of alienating artworld audiences who usually dislike manipulative demagoguery. A significant example of how vanguard public artists continue to face repression is the case of Steve Kurtz, member of the art collective Critical Art Ensemble. After the death of his partner, Hope Kurtz, the Kurtz home was inspected by the FBI for what the ambulance medics decided was material that looked suspicious. In a post 9-11 context of the criminalization of dissent, Kurtz has been pursued by Federal Justice Department prosecutors who have decided to treat what some consider a civil case of mail and wire fraud as a federal offense. Mixing artworld sophistication with user-friendly ways of testing for genetically modified organisms in food, CAE have unintentionally demonstrated how the U.S. government's increasing militarization of the public sphere protects capitalist investments in the undemocratic protection of intellectual property. The case against Kurtz and his collaborator Robert Ferrell make it difficult to maintain politically innocent notions of public space. Moreover, the kind of work they produce is a good example of how idealist aesthetics and assumptions of universal validity are inadequate for a serious discussion of public art.

Community art groups like the Viennese WochenKlausur (Weeks of Enclosure) work with various expert agencies and make use of contemporary art strategies in order to find solutions to pressing social problems. Their projects are temporary and involve communities in ways that make use of sophisticated theories of representation that do not reduce people and social issues to simplistic and reductive stereotypes. The kind of critical practice adopted by CAE and WochenKlausur challenge the celebratory approach to public art, which, too often, offers bandaid solutions to social inequality and the dissolution of urban life caused by the boom and bust cycles of capitalist development.

Victor Pasmore's Apollo Pavilion in the English New Town of Peterlee has been a focus for local politicians and other groups complaining about the governance of the town and allocation of resources. In this case artists and cultural leaders from the region have mounted a campaign to rehabilitate the reputation of the work with the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art commissioning artists Jane and Louise Wilson to make a video installation about the piece in 2003.

House, a large 1993???4 work by Rachel Whiteread in East London, was destroyed by the local council after a few months ??? in this case the artist and her agent had only secured temporary permission for the work.

16 Tons, Seth Wulsin's vast 2006 work includes the demolition of the raw material it works with, namely a former skyscraper jail, Caseros Prison, located in the middle of Buenos Aires. The prison is guarded by the Argentine military 24 hours a day, so that, in order to gain authorization to carry out the project, Wulsin had to engage a huge network of local, city and national government agencies, as well as groups of former prisoners of the jail, former political prisoners, human rights groups, and the military.

Sustainability of Public Art

Public art need not merely be a demonstration of personal innovation. Since existing in a public open space, it has a design challenge to activate the characters in its surroundings by using visual exhibition of art. The concept of ???sustainability??? might be integrated as a response the environmental deficiency of a city, as public art existed in an urban space. Sustainable development has been promoted by the United Nations since 1980s, which includes economical, social, and ecological aspects. A sustainable public art work would be an action for urban regeneration and disassembling. Sustainability has been widely adopted in many environmental planning and engineering projects. Sustainable art is a challenge to respond the needs of an opening space in public.

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