The public face of art
It’s now less than two months until the Art Everywhere exhibition literally takes to the streets of the UK. The ambitious project will see thousands of posters of classic artworks adorn billboards across the country between 10-25 August. Members of the public have the opportunity to vote for their favourite pieces of art which they would like to see included. A shortlist of the selected artworks are due to be published on the Art Everywhere website from 24 June.
The prospect of unlimited public access to some of the most inspiring works of art prompts a wider discourse about the function of commissioned art in a public space. The history of public art can be traced back as far as Ancient Greece when sculpture and architecture were the predominant domains of the artist. Nowadays, however, public art enjoys a far broader canvas that can include such diverse mediums as painting, performance, textiles and ceramics.
Public art should engage and stimulate thought. It should inhabit a sense of place and be sympathetic to its environment. It must be allowed to stand in its own metaphorical space and have it’s own dialogue. For without intellectual independence, art becomes a meaningless wasteland – a creative chasm. Art has the ability to reconcile and heal and in the context of community art can engender a sense of pride and identity, though it should not be commissioned as a cure for the social ills of society. Conversely, public art cannot be deemed responsible for the breakdown of community.
Commissioned street art can help define urban culture. High profile exhibitions from such street artists as Banksy, JR and Shepard Fairey have helped elevate the art form into mainstream consciousness, providing a legitimate respectability that is a far cry from its New York City roots of the 1970s.
The next time you engage with a piece of public art, take a moment to stop and consider what it personally means to you. For the chances are that it will mean something completely different to someone else – such is the subjective nature of art.