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Styles & Periods
Public Art

Public art is, in its most basic sense, art that is made to be shown in public spaces. This democratic idea has its roots in the work of muralist Diego Rivera and the Federal Art Project in the 1930s and 1940s. From the 1970s, however, public art has come to have a more solidified and sophisticated meaning. That is, public art is conceived to become a part of the site, and therefore the community where it is installed or created. Often, a work of public art is commissioned by a company or community board that is allotted to enhance a park, building or other space. This process has gained popularity since the 1980s, when depressed communities in need of beautification and stimulus received attention from both artists and local people. Large corporations also became particularly involved in the public domain of their real estate. There is an inherent potential for controversy in the world of public art, stemming from the subjectivity with which all art is viewed. Richard Serra's massive steel sculpture, Tilted Arc, stirred tremendous controversy when it was constructed in New York City in 1981. While some appreciated the bold, minimalist aesthetic, others found it to be an eyesore and an inconvenience. Complaints and a public hearing lead to the Tilted Arc's removal in 1989. The Visual Artists Rights Act was passed into law in the United States in 1990, and protects works from destruction, modification, and mutilation, even if the artist does not still own the work. Several cities, including Toronto and New York City, have passed legislation that requires a percentage of new building and construction costs be applied to art. Examples of Public Art can be found throughout the world. A few examples are Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate, a polished, 110 ton, stainless steel sculpture in Chicago, and Robert Indiana's iconic LOVE sculpture.


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