What Is Public Art?

Public Art, by definition, is any works of art which are sited or displayed in the public domain, this usually means outside and accessible to all. Given that it is free and everyone can see it, it is surprising and ironic how so many sculptures, statues, murals or monuments go relatively unnoticed. Sometimes they have been placed in obscure locations or have become so familiar they become invisible. Sometimes it is fair to say a piece of Public Art was simply placed in a location to fill in an empty space.

The Problem with Public Art

Now, that is not to say that all Public Art is ignored, everyone has their own favourite piece of Public Art, whether it is the Statue of Liberty or the Big Banana.

Some art gets far too much attention. So much so, it can fall into "icon" status. Many a small town has cringed at the thought of being identified as the home of the "Big Chopstick" etc!

Public art can sometimes be clever, controversial, brilliant, funny, obscene, vulgar, sensitive, insensitive, magnificent, stunning, an eyesore or just plain awful.

Big Banana, Carnarvon, Western AustraliaUnfortunately, sometimes public art can be too abstract or sadly too simple to be appreciated. Some are so hideous it is hard not to cringe and wonder what the artist was thinking. Note, many of these pieces are often commissioned by government departments. Some are spectacularly awful or far too complicated for us to make any rhyme nor reason from them. Some are placed in the most extraordinary locations, doomed to fail, whilst others no matter how remote have become national icons (The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen Harbour).

Some Public Art is steeped in tradition, whilst others have absolutely none. Useless objects (like tree stumps), too heavy to move, have been turned into public art. In Ireland it has become a national sport to rename many of their Public Art pieces with more colourful names and descriptions. In Brussels the famous Mannekin Pis has various outfits made for just about every occasions. In Western Australia a certain statue has its head stolen every now and then. America is renowned for making tourist attracting Public Art, like the "Big Ball of String". Small towns have built their tourism around unique public art. Some clutch at straws.

Temperamental Artists

Bickering amongst artists makes a piece of public art all the more intriguing. Fights amongst artist has been ongoing throughout the centuries.
Almightly spats amongst Italian artists was common place as they fought for commissions, placement and praise. Then you have, artists taking credit for their apprentices work, unhappy results, tantrums, public disfavour and "creative differences". The list goes on. Now lets not forget that some poor artists don't even get recognised for their work. If you look carefully around most sculptures, statues or memorials you would be lucky to find the artists signature or mark somewhere. Now recognition is not always a good thing, especially when the art piece is not greeted kindly.

Public Disdain

Funny enough we, the public (usually the tax payer), for whom the artwork is supposedly created for, have little if any choice in design, subject matter, placement or even artist. We are merely expected to embrace the creation. As a result the artwork is often open to greater scrutiny and harsher assessment. But alas, the public are often fickle, and once the hysteria has died down, the statue, sculpture or momument is left alone to disappear into obscurity.

The Life of Public Art

People sit on them, rub them, kiss them, pray to them, lean on them, sleep on them and even trip over them. Birds love them too!
Some get stolen, painted, damaged or simply disappear over night (eg Stalin, Saddam.) Where do THEY go ?

Over the years some Public Art has mysteriously developed mythical powers, be it good luck or curses. Some are believed responsible for fertility, wealth, health and marriage, whilst others are blamed for disasters, bad weather and tragedies.
Some, like the Statue of David (which was once considered public art) became too precious for the public and wa moved indoors where they no longer became free or accessible.

Lets Face It !

Public Art more than often gets ignored by us all. Sometimes they are simply hidden in all the wrong places or have become so familiar they have become invisible.

Love it or hate it public art is free to all and should be embraced with delight and mild amusement. It should make us question, admire, reflect, and most importantly, think.
Public Art Around The World Website will endeavour to present the good, the bad and the down right ugly Public Art works from around the world . Bringing to you its history and if need be its controversy, which will hopefully give you a greater appreciation of our most ignored art form.

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