I have recently been reading Situation, an edited collection of all kinds of texts on that subject by Claire Doherty. In it I came across a passage I simply must share. This is by Krzysztof Wodiczko from Strategies of Public Address: Which Media, Which Publics? (originally published in 1987):
To believe that the city can be affected by open-air public art galleries or enriched by outdoor curatorial adventures (through state and corporate purchases, lending and displays) is to commit an ultimate philosophical and political error. For, since the eighteen century at least, the city has operated as a massive grand aesthetic curatorial project, a monstrous public art gallery for massive exhibitions, permanent and temporary, of environmental architectural ‘installations’; monumental ‘sculpture gardens’; official and official murals and graffiti; gigantic ‘media shows’; street, underground and interior ‘performances’; spectacular social and political ‘happenings’; state and real-estate ‘land art projects’; economic events, actions and evictions (the newest form of exhibited art), etc. To attempt to ‘enrich’ this powerful, dynamic art gallery (the city public domain) with ‘artistic art’ collections or commissions – all in the public’s name – is to decorate the city with a pseudo-creativity irrelevant to urban space and experience alike; it is also to contaminate this space and experience with the most pretentious and patronizing bureaucratic-aesthetic environmental pollution. Such beautification is uglification; such humanization provokes alienation; and the noble idea of public access is likely to be received as private excess.
I think this a very nice crystallization of one point of view on projects marked as art in public space. I don’t actually agree, but it is so passionately presented that I cannot but smile and nod when I read that.