Public Art

Public Art is a popular concept in the art world lexicon and often used as a measuring stick for the cultural wellbeing of a community.

Public art relies on several elements – key is the public’s role which is essential to the artist. People respond to public art, enthuse and are inspired, which is why much of today’s public art is some of the most innovative. Public art can also take the form of protest art, like graffiti.

One stand-out example of activation of public art is The High Line in New York which opened a decade ago but continues to go from strength to strength with curated artist commissions.

The Highline is a former elevated railroad, that is now a promenade with a botanical garden designed by Piet Oudolf, that traverses 1.45 miles of New York. The Highline weaves between tall buildings, away from traffic, celebrates vistas, alongside a constantly changing programme of art commissions, music and performance that thrill and surprise – free for all – a vital addition to the New York cityscape that city planners wish to duplicate for the future. On show now is En Plein Air, inspired by the unique site of the High Line, examines and expands the tradition of outdoor painting.

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The art term ‘site-specific’ has particular relevance in regards to the forthcoming Social Impact Prize which will be, in whatever form it takes, site-specific to the area of Graaff-Reinet, as it will respond to the local area, and be part of a dialogue between the local community and local geography.

In South Africa follow the work of Site Specific Collective here: sitespecific.org.za

Tate Modern says: “Site specific refers to a work of art designed specifically for a particular location and that has an interrelationship with the location.” 

Read more here: www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/s/site-specific

Guggenheim says: “Site-specific or Environmental art refers to an artist’s intervention in a specific locale, creating a work that is integrated with its surroundings and that explores its relationship to the topography of its locale, whether indoors or out, urban, desert, marine, or otherwise.”

Read more here: www.guggenheim.org/artwork/movement/site-specific-artenvironmental-art

One of the most famous examples is Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” at Salt Lake in Utah, USA.

Read more here: www.diaart.org/visit/visit/robert-smithson-spiral-jetty