Worst Public Art Manifesto No. 1

Taking the stuffing out of stuff we have to look at
By GREG COOK  |  September 13, 2010


Long-term public art has a greater responsibility to the community, to the public, than regular gallery art. Gallery art can afford to be crazier, more acid, more painful, more anti-social, and more just plain bad, because our experience of it is temporary. But long-term public art, like architecture, is something we have to live with. And usually we, the public, have no say over what public art or architecture that is. I do not mean that we want public art or architecture with no teeth. (Bland, saccharine, toothless stuff is one of the major failings of public art.) Only that it should be a companionable beast.

A key aspect of public art that’s often left out is the public. Usually, the public is not involved in choosing public art; that decision is given to small committees or individuals or private businesses. Individuals or small groups are often best for selecting great art, so I’m not trying to change the selection process.

That said, public art — even works we hate — should be given a chance. Years. Sometimes it takes a while for something to grow on you. Sometimes it takes a while just to figure something out. Sometimes something that looked cool at first becomes trite.

But after giving public art a fair shot, the public has the right to impeach bad public art. I don’t mean for bad public art to be destroyed. Just removed. Perhaps some other community would benefit from some quality time with it. And new public art should take its place.

So, dear reader, I’m soliciting your nominations of the Worst Public Art in New England. Please e-mail your choice — preferably with photos — to gcook30@hotmail.com. I’ll share the nominations at my blog, the New England Journal of Aesthetic Research — and then select one work that is particularly awful. And launch a campaign to have it removed. Please join me in this noble, democratic, community-improvement effort.

  Topics: Museum And Gallery , CULTURE, Contest, public art,  More more >
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