The Glories of Public Art

The New York Times pays homage to public art, both good and bad, this week.  The article highlights some of the most beloved triumphs of the art form, such as Chicago’s “Bean” (actually “Cloud Gate” by Anish Kapoor), as well as some of the perceived failures, including the controversial Damien Hirst’s “Virgin Mother”.  (As an aside, if you want to read more about the controversy over Hirst, read more about his diamond skulls and allegations of artistic plagiarism.)

New York City has a rich artistic history, especially for public art.  Most recently many of you have noticed Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls brightening up your ride by Governor’s Island, Brooklyn Heights, the Brooklyn Bridge and others.  While lots of people say these installations are a waste of millions of dollars, I think that’s unfair to the people at the Public Art Fund who have been trying for the past 30 years to bring some culture to the streets of NYC.  New York City and state has allocated money specifically for cultural/arts purposes anyway, so why not for installations that can be widely seen and appreciated by all New Yorkers?  In a town where many museums cost upwards of $15 just to enter, I think public art is important to connect NYC residents and keep us active, thoughtful, and engaged with the art and with one another.

What is perhaps most sad for us Staten Islanders is the dearth of public art in Staten Island.  While our September 11 memorial is certainly among the more beautiful works, the rest of our island is somewhat lacking.  The Wikipedia entry for “Outdoor Sculpture in New York City” lists at least one work for every borough except Staten Island.  Come on, guys!

And just for fun, a look at the way sculpture influences our minds and even other artists’ works (maybe?).  Check out Jeff Koons’ work, Balloon Dog.  And then see whether or not you think Eero Aarnio for Crate & Barrel’s “puppy” is a little bit of a rip off?  And I don’t just mean it’s overpriced… ahem!


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