Month: March 2011

Monet Meets Municipality: What Do We Make of Public Art?

posted by – 03/23/11 @ 11:34am


Last weekend in the Richmond area of Vancouver, a canopy of beautiful, blue trees spontaneously cropped up against the urban landscape. Towering above a row of modest apartments, the temporary forest was anything but ordinary. Was this a Dr. Seuss-esque prank, a surreal figment of the viewer’s imagination, or merely a novel breed of shrubbery?

In fact, the project was the latest venture in public artwork from artist Konstantin Dimopolous. As part of the Vancouver Biennale–a public art program–The Blue Trees installation proves to be more than just an innocuous plot of flora. In fact, it brings to the forefront a handful of themes: global issues of deforestation,  the increasing popularity of municipal, outdoor settings for artwork, and lastly, the tenuous question: does public/outdoor art mark the downfall of the modern ‘museum?’

Rather than make lofty proclamations about Dimopolous’ project, I want to examine the growing realm of public art, or an “open-air museum,” as the Vancouver Biennale likes to call it.

Dreamspace V: Maurice Agis’ inflatable imaginarium–which allowed viewers to tread through a moon bounce/funhouse “dreamspace”–became the stuff of tragic sensationalism, when the structure toppled over. Many questioned the extent to which public art was fraught with peril, and perhaps an endeavour not worth the effort.

The Gates: During the winter of 2005, the pathway of orange, nylon “gates”  added a fresh take to the traditional Central Park landscape. Met with mixed reactions, the piece emerged as a conversation piece for the New York set, and a heuristic for public art–at least in the minds of many Manhattanites.

Ghost Ballet: A discussion of public art would not be complete without a nod to Nashville’s own Ghost Ballet. Who can forget the pictures of last May’s flood, with the Ghost Ballet partially submerged in the aquatic rubble?

Whether tapping into the visceral, or simply befuddling commuters and city-dwellers, public art has carved out a niche for itself. So, now I turn it over to you. Do you think that public art is a waste of resources, a mere rite of passage for a city to become more cosmopolitan? Or is it the new frontier of artwork?

Carpe Diem with the 80 Square Project

posted by – 03/19/11 @ 4:09pm

Original work by Meghan O'Connor

Original work by Meghan O'Connor

A few weeks ago, I hailed the merits of art collecting as a young adult. As if life has cheekily imitated blogging, Tinney Contemporary will serve as the host for Middle Tennesse State University’s 80 Square program. This Saturday, March 19th, from 6 – 9 P.M. the gallery’s walls will be littered with drawings, paintings, and other works of art from artists nationwide.

With every piece priced at $20, I cannot think of a better way to start one’s collection, and to support a great cause: all proceeds will benefit the MTSU Department of Art Scholarship Program.

Taking in each idiosyncratic piece, I can’t help but wonder if events like “80 Square” are a new frontier, or even art galleries’ version of a “Happening.” Hundreds of artists–in response to a request from Middle Tennessee State University–took the time to submit  a sample of their work, on an 8 x 10 sheet. I realize that what I’m saying at this point may not sound novel, but I do believe that this event speaks volumes as to how an art gallery can bring a young, enthusiastic crowd through its doors.

While it’s lovely to view some of the work of a single artist, there is something equally gripping about a pastiche of works, and the idea that a loose community of artists has been forged, sustained by the common goal of supporting a charitable cause. Most importantly, the 80 Square event is about choice and accessibility. Young art collectors can browse the works–ranging on every subject from the patriotic to visceral–and find a piece that speaks to himself/herself. Who knows how many individuals will walk away tonight with their very first piece of art?