Public Sculpture is Getting Better

After an experimental phase of earthworks and video installations, public art is on the rise. And, a New York Times art critic reports, the quality is looking up.
August 27, 2008, 1pm PDT | Tim Halbur
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"(O)ver the past 15 years public sculpture - that is, static, often figurative objects of varying sizes in outdoor public spaces - has become one of contemporary art's more exciting areas of endeavor and certainly its most dramatically improved one.

To be sure, this new public sculpture is not always good. (Damien Hirst's "Virgin Mother" at Lever House comes to mind.) If this kind of work may not be batting much above .300, hits are happening, showing art's ability to reach larger audiences (as it satisfies its core one) and to create a communal experience that is in some ways akin to movies or popular music in its accessibility.

Some recent successes have included Rachel Whiteread's 1993 "House," a concrete cast of the interior of a London terrace house; Mark Wallinger's 1999 "Ecce Homo," a life-size figure of Jesus crowned with thorns, hands bound, standing amid the din of Trafalgar Square in London; Takashi Murakami's wicked aluminum and platinum leaf Buddha shown in the atrium of the IBM Building in New York in the spring; and Anish Kapoor's abstract 'Cloud Gate,' nicknamed the Bean, at Millennium Park in Chicago. Freely mixing elements of Pop, Minimalism, conceptual art and realism, these pieces also often benefit from new technologies and materials that make them dynamic and provocative."

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Published on Friday, August 22, 2008 in The New York Times
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