Is public art an insult to the public?

Sunday 20 October, 12.15pm until 1.15pm, Garden Room Artistic Battles

From the Fourth Plinth’s ‘blue cock’ to Mark Wallinger’s ‘White Horse at Ebbsfleet’ and Art Everywhere’s plan to turn the UK’s public spaces into ‘the world’s largest art gallery’ there is no shortage of ambitious public art programmes. Yet while such projects seem to generate enthusiasm among local authorities and the arts world, sceptics believe they leave the intended audience – the public – feeling a mixture of bemusement, indifference and outright hostility. Is public art rarely more than a vanity project for those involved, reducing art to the same bracket as other civic amenities? Should genuinely public art be funded by voluntary subscription rather than tax-payers’ money? Or does state-funded public art provide a vital function in engaging those who rarely venture into galleries and enliven otherwise drab public spaces? Do such projects risk insulting the public by assuming that their indifference to art is because they’re too lazy to venture into a gallery or can only enjoy art that is directly aimed at them? Or do they affirm an important commitment to providing art for all?

Josie Appleton
director, civil liberties group, Manifesto Club; author, Officious: Rise of the Busybody State

Fisun Güner
freelance writer; visual arts editor, The Arts Desk

Helen Marriage
director, Artichoke

Dr Wendy Earle
impact development officer, Birkbeck, University of London; convenor, Academy of Ideas Arts and Society Forum

Produced by
Dr Wendy Earle impact development officer, Birkbeck, University of London; convenor, Academy of Ideas Arts and Society Forum
Recommended readings
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