Public art: Were you consulted?
Back from Cannes and turning my thoughts to public art. Tonight, in London, the Art Fund, will be hosting a debate entitled "Can The Public Be Trusted to Choose Public Art?" Given how much public art has sprung up in the last decade, you might assume there was an enormous public appetite for it. But that isn't necessarily so.
I remember interviewing Richard Serra in London last year and he talked, with some disappointment, about the graffiti sprayed over his only work on permanent display in the UK. Work by sculptor Henry Moore has also been stolen and allegedly melted down, and there are always going to be people who fundamentally object to having any public money spent on art - although even they have to acknowledge the success of works such as Antony Gormley's Angel of the North and the figures on Crosby beach in Liverpool.
However, while Gormley's invitation to the public to stand on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square might seem like the ultimate manifestation of PUBLIC art, I can see it running into problems of the health and safety variety. Watch this space.
Mark Wallinger's White Horse, in Ebbsfleet, will no doubt attract enormous attention when it is built and in his case there was certainly some public consultation, but on the whole public art is imposed on communities and very often used in urban regeneration plans.
A few years ago I went to Chicago's Millennium Park, which showcases a fine example of participatory public art, with Jaume Plensa's contemporary park fountain, with its very own high tech gargoyle, and Anish Kapoor's shiny, giant coffee bean. Art in public spaces is generally chosen by committee, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
Would it work better and more consistently if the public played a greater role in what their communities will see every day? And what might happen to art if they did have a say? Or is the vision of an artist paramount? What do you think?