Public Art
March 8, 2009 9:30 PM   Subscribe

Previous post on the Cloud Gate.
posted by homunculus at 9:30 PM on March 8, 2009

For just a second there I read that as "Nine Breathtaking and Inspiring Pieces of Pubic Art".
posted by orange swan at 9:35 PM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cool stuff. My favorite piece of public art is the Fremont Troll, under a bridge just a few blocks from here in Seattle.
posted by grouse at 9:35 PM on March 8, 2009

Wow, some of those pieces really are spectacular. Unfortunately in Toronto we have no breathtaking public art. We have.... Gumby Goes to Heaven.
posted by orange swan at 9:41 PM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ooh, this makes me excited. I just got a book about public art here in New York, and this just makes me want to pull it out and take a tour.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:45 PM on March 8, 2009

Breathtaking and Inspiring

How quaint.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:51 PM on March 8, 2009

Pretty cool. What makes public art good? It engages the space around it. Cloud gate, the big bear, the urban river - they all are doing something that interacts, or apears to interact, with the objects, space, and people around them. They have a reason to be there, even if the reason is kind of weird or overwhelming.

I work with a number of cities that have "public art" programs. Usually what happens, is a developer receives a set of "conditions of approval" in order to be permitted to develop a property, and over a certain threshold, is obligated to provide "public art". What they get is some sculptural object that gets placed somewhere sort of prominent, like a street corner. These things may be pretty fun and engaging sculptures on their own, but it's clear they are "off the shelf" items. We refer to them as "plop art", and they can look really bad. One of my favorite bad ones is an eight foot tall stainless steel thing that looks sort of like a mangled ship's propeller. It sits on the lawn in front of a spanish style sign that was also mandated by city planning. The juxtaposition of the two is awful. It really does convey the impression that someone just left this thing there by accident, and someday someone is going to come get it. I am always a little surprised when I drive by this intersection, and the thing is still there.
posted by Xoebe at 9:54 PM on March 8, 2009

Worst piece of public art ever? I nominate Zurab Tseriteli's Peter the Great monument in Moscow. He originally tried to market it to towns in America as a "Columbus monument," but no one would accept it. Thankfully, he's friends with important people in Russia, so the Moscow mayor let him put this monstrosity in the middle of the Moscow River instead.
posted by nasreddin at 10:04 PM on March 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Breathtaking and inspiring? I thought we were talking public art, not an iron lung.
posted by idiopath at 10:05 PM on March 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I nominate Zurab Tseriteli's Peter the Great monument

Wow those are some wonderful lead colors he is working with.
posted by nola at 10:07 PM on March 8, 2009

Unfortunately in Toronto we have no breathtaking public art

And in Perth, they have the Marylands Bum Scratcher.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:23 PM on March 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

The NYC waterfalls were anything but breathtaking and inspiring.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 10:27 PM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I really like all of these but I think their definition of art that is "inspiring" is simply art that is big. These pieces are also weighted towards whimsical rather than provocative, evocative, or whatever else I could articulate better if I knew more fancy words. The river piece is the only one that seems political per se.

But I do like them all and I'm glad you posted the link.
posted by serazin at 10:39 PM on March 8, 2009

OK, everybody, don't turn blue. Breathlet and expire.
posted by pracowity at 11:22 PM on March 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Entitled “A Device to Root Out Evil,” this piece of artwork stands as an upside-down church in Glenbrow, Canada. The church used to be displayed in Vancouver (as shown in the first image), but controversy over it blocking the ocean view of where it stood caused it to be shipped out. The design is rather controversial, yet it remains a beautiful piece of captivating public art, and complaints about it in it’s new location have remained minimum.

Correction: "A Device to Root Out Evil" stands in the old inner-city neighbourhood of Ramsay on the east side of Calgary, Alberta, brought here courtesy of the Glenbow Museum and the Torode Group (a condo developer). Which I know because it's two blocks from my house and I see it almost every day. Here's a link to video of its installation.

Kind of hard to describe how unexpected and delightful the Device is in its new home. Most of the stuff in the OP is set amid highrise downtowns or huge urban parks, but the Device at present occupies a yard-sized triangle of green in front of a prewar warehouse on the edge of a neighbourhood consisting primarily of stucco bungalows. In time, there'll be a massive mixed-use development behind it, but for now it's a great example of how great public art can bring a sense of place even to an established residential neighbourhood.

Beyond that it's maybe the hippest thing to ever happen to my corner of Calgary, and unlike many transiently hip things, it's actually truly inspired and gets better the longer it's around. It stimulates different pathways in my brain every time I see it. It can seem gimmicky at first - would seem gimmicky if you saw it once in a museum, I bet - but when you live alongside it, it turns out to have much more to say than you originally thought. And my four-year-old daughter thinks it's a lot of fun too, though she's still pretty pissed she's not allowed to climb on it. She has a point - the thing was made for climbing.

It's also about the only way little ole Ramsay's ever going to find its way to the blue, so I'm experiencing some kinda Mefite analogue to deja vu here or something . . .
posted by gompa at 12:26 AM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, and if you slog your way through that video you'll hear some random handwringer from my community association arguing against its placement with no apparent basis. This is par for the course for my community association, which is peopled by the strangest little cluster of bean-plating NIMBYs who ever pulled reasons out their ass to oppose all kinds of change and then wrote up a list twenty bullet points long to explain how they weren't opposed to change, per se, just this particular kind.

Because I'm sure you were wondering . . .

posted by gompa at 12:37 AM on March 9, 2009

Odd how the captions often don't include information like WHERE the art is. What's up with that, Web Urbanist?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:37 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

In Waterford last year we had a public display of giant Gottfired Helnwein works. Some of them are the still up. This one had to be taken down because of mild public outcry after a week. It was still a pretty brave and probably expensive thing to do for a city of 35,000 people.
posted by minifigs at 1:51 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

They included an upside down church sculpture, but I have to say I like this upside down statue of Charles La Trobe much more.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:33 AM on March 9, 2009

The Eiffel Tower is breathtaking, these not so much IMHO. Fun though? Quite a bit. Thanks for the post.
posted by caddis at 3:36 AM on March 9, 2009

The environmentally friendly solar-art piece, “Co2LED” no longer stands where it once did in Arlington, Texas.

That's good because it sure does look like Arlington, Virginia in the pictures.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:17 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I want the big, blue bear statue to be named "I see what you did there".

Also, I like this piece of public art.
posted by orme at 4:33 AM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Was that list limited to N.America? They didn't all say where they were from.
Anyways, gotta say I like the Zombies in Prague. The weird baby-creatures climbing up the TV Tower are pretty cool too. (self-flickr links)
posted by mannequito at 4:55 AM on March 9, 2009

Most of these are pretty great.
posted by DU at 5:06 AM on March 9, 2009

I was going to suggest Seattle's Sound Garden, because I can't think of any other public art work that inspired the name of a band, but it appears that "security concerns" have led to blocking public access to the work. Are there any Seattleites who can give an update about the work?
posted by jonp72 at 5:20 AM on March 9, 2009

“Water Is Life” is written so as to be read from the sky. The sight is quite beautiful and inspiring to drive along!
As I live near this so called public art work, I'd like to point out that no, the thing is not quite beautiful. In fact the paint job was done badly, the road leads through a depressing part of town, and the whole things should have disappeared already.

The same artist gave another Frisian town a lot of fried eggs, sunny side up, nobody but him, his bank manager, and the politicians involved liked. In fact, because of another botched paint job, the friday market on that square suffered from it for months because of the glare the white surface produced.
posted by ijsbrand at 6:20 AM on March 9, 2009

__NUMBER__ __ADJECTIVE__ __THING__ == posted to digg.

I love public art, but that blog is just trawling for digg/reddit links. See their other "great articles": "30 Polar Panoramic Photographs", "15 Amazing Monasteries, Sanctuaries and Abbies", "15 Crazy Concept Bicycles", "20 Abandoned Buildings & Places in Europe", "15 Visions of Retro-Future Space Flight", "10 Amazing Skate Parks from Around the World", "15 Fabulous & Funky Furniture Design Sets", etc, etc, etc, etc, etc...
posted by beerbajay at 6:37 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seriously, beerbajay. If there is no honest and thoughtful commentary, I usually cannot care and often end up mildly irritated. Sometimes I even think about how the internet has become a cesspool of self-promotion and Google ads. Even if the peekchers are wonderful.
posted by nosila at 6:50 AM on March 9, 2009

Anyway, one of the pieces on that list (A Device to Root Out Evil) is by Dennis Oppenheim, an artist who has created some other rather interesting sculptures, which often use buildings in playful ways.
posted by beerbajay at 7:12 AM on March 9, 2009

Mannequito, my thesis spoke about both of those pieces. The "zombies" are a monument to the victims of communism, and the babies are the work of David Černý. who I love but find baffling at times. He has said those babies will stay on the tower "until they fall off" which was just the most terrifying image in my head.

This is really cool to see, because I know public art has a lousy rap at times. My mom has been in charge of the public art programs in several major cities, and there is some seriously innovative stuff being made out there, but often people only think of sculptures or murals. While I think this list is far from extensively researched, it is still cool to see things outside of the normal bronze offerings.
posted by piratebowling at 7:14 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the extra links, guys! Orme, where is that and is that? Does it have a name?

Usually what happens, is a developer receives a set of "conditions of approval" in order to be permitted to develop a property, and over a certain threshold, is obligated to provide "public art". What they get is some sculptural object that gets placed somewhere sort of prominent, like a street corner.

You are describing Raleigh to a T. The city keeps trying to redefine itself and failing miserably. Several times exciting, innovative works of art have been offered to the city-- free of charge even-- only to be shot down. Meanwhile, the battle rages on as to whether the monument to the Civil War Dead should be removed.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:17 AM on March 9, 2009

I do love Cloud Gate, especially the way it reverses big and small, inside and outside. It's especially beautiful on a clear night, I think. That said, some of the rest of these are kinda eh. The LED one looked interesting - too bad it's not there anymore. Public art seems harder to do well than a lot of other kinds of art, somehow.
posted by marginaliana at 7:42 AM on March 9, 2009

Odd how the captions often don't include information like WHERE the art is. What's up with that, Web Urbanist?

Or the artist/teams that created them? They're just pictures plus, "_____ is a truly original and breathtaking piece of public art!"

No one's a fan of Richard Serra's Tilted Arc?
posted by fontophilic at 8:35 AM on March 9, 2009

The NYC waterfalls were anything but breathtaking and inspiring.

Amen, brother. I saw those things numerous time on excursions to Ikea and Governors Island. It was a cute gimmick, but hardly a great work of public art. I can't believe those would be chosen over The Gates, which I adored.
posted by kimdog at 8:38 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Neon on the Alamo is just wrong.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:44 AM on March 9, 2009

Yeah, the writing in that article is really almost seems translated from another language.

I'm still partial to The Awakening.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:55 AM on March 9, 2009

This list should have James Turrell's "Roden Crater" on it.
posted by gen at 9:05 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Orme, where is that and is that? Does it have a name?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:17 AM

Sorry, I'm just as bad as the original link in the no-info department!

It's called "Chairs" and the artist is Doris Salcedo.
posted by orme at 9:28 AM on March 9, 2009

I'm sorry, but, The Motherland Calls in Volgograd, Russia totally knocks all of these into a cocked hat.

Just check out the people at the foot of the statue to get an idea of the scale of it!
posted by metaxa at 9:28 AM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was trying to find another one, which is this giant fabric sort of creation that hovers over a highway and billows like a jellyfish in the wind. Maybe in Spain?

Anyone know what I'm talking about?
posted by orme at 9:40 AM on March 9, 2009

Nine Breathtaking and Inspiring Pieces of Public Art.

Sorry, neither.

The Koons piece was cool looking. The rest were pretty to look at, but didn't seem worth the effort that had obviously gone into them.

And don't get me started on that idiotic Eliasson waterfall.
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on March 9, 2009

Berwyn Spindle RIP
posted by generalist at 9:47 AM on March 9, 2009

Neon on the Alamo is just wrong.

I agree. I prefer Ozzy Osbourne's urine myself.
posted by jonp72 at 10:00 AM on March 9, 2009

Wow - the Far East has 9 of the 10 tallest statues in the world, located in China (x4), Myanmar, Japan (x3), and Thailand. 6 of these are of Buddha (sort of - two are of Avalokiteśvara, who is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas). And there are more in the top 50. Tallest Jesus? Somewhere around #50. Heck, the Statue of Dacian king Decebalus is 5.8 meters taller, and what's that guy done in a couple thousand years?
posted by filthy light thief at 10:03 AM on March 9, 2009

I'm surprised that nobody mentions the fountains near the Bean.

A couple of years ago my mom decided that she wanted to go down to Chicago for Mother's Day. We hadn't been getting along well for months, but I sucked it up and agreed. She and my dad picked me up and we drove down in a reasonably pleasant manner, where we met up with my brother. We went to the Art Institute and then wandered over to the park.

Somehow, suddenly, we all started smiling. I took off my shoes and rolled up my pants so I could splash and stomp in the pool. We stared, transfixed, as the towers and faces blinked and spit at us. We wandered in and around the Bean and felt calm, protected, and at peace. My mom forgot to be picky and grumpy. We were just HAPPY.

I wish we could do that again.
posted by Madamina at 10:08 AM on March 9, 2009

Worst piece of public art ever?

I submit the Peace Fountain.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:20 AM on March 9, 2009

Sorry that's not the best pic, hard to see the severed head in the crab's left claw.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:27 AM on March 9, 2009

Pile on: I also had higher expectations, this really isn't the best of the web. No context, missing key information, inaccurate, and perhaps worst of all, rather poor taste.

Here is my contribution to make it all better:
The blue road painting bit could use a little more context like:
Featuring 1000 metres of road painted blue and the phrase "Water is Life" written in eight-metre-high letters across it, the Blue Road is reminiscent of the waterway that used to be where the road is now. It's a memorial to nature ... there's even a few cool tidbits along the road, like a sinking car. The project took 4000 litres of paint and cost 75,000 Euros. Hofstra wants the road to be visible on Google Earth, but it hasn't shown up yet.
and that it is located in Drachten, The Netherlands.

One of the issues I have with the list is that the original author makes no difference between installations, like Co2LED, The New York City Waterfalls (good pic of poor art) (which I agree was no rival to the much more interesting Gates) and Koon's Puppy, which are "temporary" or very short term and the other works, which are "permanent" or expect to be where they are for some time.

Also missing: spiral jetty google earth map here
posted by zenon at 10:46 AM on March 9, 2009

maybe I'm just a goof, but I'd love to add an emerging wiener to the statue that Ian A.T. linked to.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:15 PM on March 9, 2009

I love the Peace Fountain and had hoped it would be linked in the article - it's like civic statuary from a fantasy world
posted by jtron at 1:01 PM on March 9, 2009

I think 'Walking to the Sky' is a good example of a sculpture that did not do well when transferred to another location. It's installed in an open space with nothing within a hundred feet and its the tallest thing in the vicinity. The pole the people are walking on stops so abruptly that it's hard not to imagine the horrible conclusion as each blithely keeps walking.

It made sense as a sculpture in its original installation at Rockefeller center. The buildings were taller than the sculpture so it looked like the people were actually going somewhere. It must have been fun to look at from the floors at eye level with the figures.

I really loved the inflatable sculptures from the 'Pittsburgh Roars' series. They were all designed by local people and built on an impressive scale. The best part is that each sculpture would be moved from place to place around the city, so every once in a while you would turn a corner and see a giant fish on the courthouse steps, or a zombie on top of a building, or a monster dominating a school yard. I loved the surprises.
posted by Alison at 1:08 PM on March 9, 2009

Nice, thanks.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:11 PM on March 9, 2009

Wroclaw has a surprising amount of street art. Pedestrians underpasses. And gnomes. Lots of gnomes
posted by kjs4 at 11:27 PM on March 9, 2009

Wot no Anthony Gormley?
posted by tiny crocodile at 4:16 AM on March 10, 2009

Great post, homunculus, and Bloody awesome!

Kudos to their respective cities for going with it. Except a pox on Vancouver and 'moving' of "Device to Root Out Evil" to 'another' location, because it blocked the mountain view.
FIE! The artist created it with a location in mind... that piece is absolutely lost and nullified in its current location. Shame, really, 'cause it's cool as hell and should have stayed in its original location.
It just doesn't make the same statement in Calgary, sorry.

Yeah, orange swan, Toronto doesn't have any street art aside for the all nighter Nuit Blanche. In fact we had our own waterfall by Katherine Harvey, a quilt made out of recycled plastic bottles. Ha, suck on it NYC. Their waterfall execution, needed to go a step further and hide the scaffolding with a large photo of the background bridge columns on vinyl and wrapped the scaffold. They do it in the film industry, it would add only a few hundred thousand to the 15M. Ah well, execution...

In fact Toronto seems to be following the example of Spain's Bilbao Museum with some nice architecture like Ontario College of Art & Design and the Royal Ontario Museum addition, which is wicked, I live 3 blocks from it. That side of the museum used to look ghastly. Now, tourists are lining up and it's great seeing it from down the street while the sun sets.

It's a start.

orme. that is something else. I bet in my city, they'd call it a fire hazard and it would need a security guard after bar closing time, methinks. Yep.
posted by alicesshoe at 11:56 AM on March 10, 2009

In fact Toronto seems to be following the example of Spain's Bilbao Museum...

Which was, oddly enough, designed by Toronto-born Frank Gehry, who also did the new AGO.

So our country boasts the Patient Zero of both AIDS and museum cancer. Sorry, everyone!
posted by Sys Rq at 5:20 PM on March 10, 2009

P.S. Toronto and Halifax have similar Lumpy Churchill statues. Down east, he's wearing men's trousers instead of a full-length skirt.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:31 PM on March 10, 2009

Interesting, DC's Churchill is much less bumpy (but still bumpy), but at least he's giving the "V" for Victory rather than "V" for "get stuffed."
posted by Pollomacho at 5:34 AM on March 11, 2009

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