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Public Sculpture - Whose Art?



A version of this paper was first presented as part of the lecture series Public Places, Public Spaces, sponsored by Simon Fraser University Design Program, held at VanDusen Gardens, Vancouver, BC, May 27,1985. First published in VAG Documents III: Art in Public Places: A Casebook, edited by Judith Mastai, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1993.

PUBLIC SCULPTURE - WHOSE ART?

If there is any shared consideration within the practice of sculpture it may have to do with the physical fact of the thing itself - the power of objects. A sculpture exists in real time and real space; it has a palpable reality; it is affected by light, dark, cold or heat. Although we live in a culture surrounded by every kind of physical object and we spend many long years of service in their maintenance, it is sculpture that separates out the object-ness of things, their quiddity, their ontology. It is this quality that compels us to it.

The question of context is equally central to any discussion of public sculpture. Any object raised for common consideration and entered into the public domain carries with it a burden of proof that it works, that it does what it intends, that it gives us a sense of the logic of its presence and purpose.

The question of what makes a sculpture public is best answered in terms of its place. There is virtually no such thing as public sculpture in the sense that it was chosen by a public. Instead, various systems of representation act on behalf of the public, as their proxy, leading to the appearance of the work in a public place. Most public sculpture

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